For our commodity chain project, we decided to discuss the process by which footballs are made. We chose this topic because it has significant relevance to us as a society since football is such a popular sport in this country. In addition, we are also student athletes for The Ohio State University so we really wanted to incorporate that aspect in our project. Here we will now breakdown step by step the creation of a football. After that, we have a map of the commodity chain on page 8. Page 9 explains the impacts of each activity of the commodity chain. The final page shows the sources we used on our Works Cited page.


Step 1: Gathering Raw Materials

In the early years pig’s bladder was used as the ball. However, today’s football is an inflated rubber bladder or cowhide. This material is extremely durable as well as easily tanned. After the tanning process, the cowhide is cut into a bend which is the strongest part of the hide. Rubber is used from latex on a tree or polyurethane made from the reaction of a polyol (an alcohol containing multiple hydroxl groups) with a diisocyanate or isocyante, (a compound used to make resin and plastic). Paint made from pigment resin, solvent and string vinyl is also used, as well as cotton, polyester, hemp, nylon or linen and lastly.


An example of how the materials a football was made out of prior to the modern change to leather.


Step 2: Manufacturing

The making of a football is a 5 day process, starting with cutting four panels in the shape of a prolate spheroid. Using a hydraulically driven clicking machine, an operator cuts the panels. Each panel then goes through a machine in order to produce its predetermined thickness and weight. They are then stamped with a logo and the panels are punctured with eight lacing holes, each a half inch apart, and one air valve hole. The panel is sewn with a synthetic lining. The lining is composed of three layers of cross-laid fabric cemented together, which protects the panel from stretching or growing out of shape while in use. The ball is stitched on the inside and then must be manually turned inside out. Either a rubber bladder is placed inside the ball or a machine will fill the ball with polyurethane bladder. The ball is then hand laced with vinyl lacing strings and taken to be over-inflated to ensure the panels shape the ball properly. Finally, the balls are inflated with a pressure of 12.5 lb to 13.5 lb.


The lengthy process of manufacturing a football is split up into many steps. One of them is lacing the ball by hand.


Step 3: Transportation

The third activity that occurs in the commodity chain of footballs is transportation. Once they have been manufactured, footballs – as with almost all other goods – need to be transported from the manufacturing sites to the distributing sites for retail sales. Transportation can be done in a variety of ways, depending on where the footballs are going. If they are being transported domestically, the footballs are typically carried by either trains or trucks. If they are being moved internationally, footballs are transported by either boats or planes. See page 8 for a visual example of the transportation step in the commodity chain of footballs. This example shows the process by which footballs used by the NFL are transported from the Wilson factory in Ada, Ohio.

The four transportation modes used for footballs: train, plane, truck, and boat.

The four transportation modes used for footballs: train, plane, truck, and boat.


Step 4: Purchasing

The fourth activity in the commodity chain of footballs is purchasing. After the balls have been transported to distributors, they are then bought by various types of customers and through various methods. For example, the NFL purchases footballs in bulk from Wilson, to be used in games and practices. Another customer that purchases footballs in a similar fashion is universities, who purchase footballs for use by their teams and recreational facility members. This is a common way of purchasing for larger customers. For smaller customers, such as individual consumers like you and me, purchasing in bulk is not ideal. For these customers, footballs can be purchased individually at retailers, like Dick’s Sporting Goods and other such stores. The purchasing step of the commodity chain for footballs varies slightly based on the customer’s needs and preferences, as well as their environment.

This picture, taken from a Dick's Sporting Goods store in New York, shows one way of purchasing footballs for individual customers.

This picture, taken from a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in New York, shows one way of purchasing footballs for individual customers.


Step 5: Consumption

After the footballs are purchased, the next step is consumption. The consumption of a football tells us who is using it. Since the sport is predominantly played here in the United States, this is where most of the consumption occurs. Footballs are primarily used outside, whether on a football field by teams or players practicing, or at a local park where people can play a friendly game. There also are some indoor arenas that were created to play football indoors. However, footballs can have other uses as well. They can also be used as a rehabilitation device for the injured or in schools for special education students. Footballs can be used to decorate, whether as an artist’s work or in a child’s bedroom. Another potential use is being displayed as memorabilia with a prized autograph. The many uses for footballs show the importance of having every one of them produced perfectly, because most importantly, they are used to create memories.

An NFL Wilson football

An NFL Wilson football

Step 6: Disposal/Recycling

The last step after the football has been consumed for maximum duration is the disposal/recycling of footballs.  This could be done in a variety of ways: donating to those less fortunate, recycling at a leather factory, using around the home as a lawn decoration or a new dog toy, or even a Halloween mask! Leather can be recycled by cleaning it. One process is shredding it and gluing it back together. Another is bonding it with a natural rubber. We can use this recycled leather for wallets, shoes, luggage, belts, and handles on bats and golf clubs. The possibilities are endless to go green with recycling of footballs, so the trash isn’t always the best choice.

Recycled football made into a planter.


Map for Commodity Chain of a Football

Follow the link below for an interactive look at our map for the commodity chain of a football.

A graphic, mapping out the processes of the commodity chain for a football.

A graphic, mapping out the processes of the commodity chain for a football.

Impacts of the Commodity Chain

1. Raw Materials-The biggest impact that raw materials have is on the animals. Specifically, the animals should be treated humanely. We see many groups such as PETA, Humane Society, and Last Chance for Animals rally and protest against the killing of animals. The raw materials to make a football are predominantly from animals, ranging from a pigs bladder to a cow’s hide. Additionally, extracting raw materials can impact the environment because of the need for importing raw materials. In underdeveloped countries, the set up is to use land for high demand. With this demand, supplies are required. Sometimes those supplies can be damaging, for example fertilizer.

2. Manufacturing- The tanning process of the leather to make a football deals with many chemical agents such anthracene, aschromium, formaldehyde, arsenic, vegetable tannins, and aldehydes. The impact of these chemical agents can pollute the air or even end up washed up in our waters with cleaning up of the chemicals. Also, it can affect one’s health by attacking lungs, kidneys, and liver, as well as harming skin or eyes. These can turn into long effecting diseases like asthma, blindness, skin discoloration.

3. Transportation- The impacts of transportation depend a lot on Mother Nature; if the weather is good, transportation is not affected. However if we have bad weather, here we cannot ship out. If the customer has terrible weather, they cannot receive. This means, boats, rains, planes, and cars depend on Mother Nature to be the best it can be for these to run efficiently. Also, if there are strikes, then packers, movers, transporters will not be working so that will cause shipments to be interrupted.

4. Purchasing- The impact of purchasing is that the price cannot be controlled. Prices are based on what people are buying and what kind of quality they want. Today we see more people wanting to save money. They are focused on a cheap product and don’t seem to care about the quality as much anymore. Also, if there is an outbreak of sickness in the animals whose hides are used for leather that also can hinder the price. This instability in price cost and prices paid can have serious effects on the industry. Prices are not stable

5. Consumption-The sport of football has grown in popularity. There are a numerous different leagues, such as NFL, AFL, and WFL so consumption is rising. Also, when population increases and new city leagues can be started, this adds to the consumption. The rise of consumption can have a positive effect that more people are engaging in sports.

6. Disposal/Recycling-The recycling impacts the environment in a good way, because our waste is not building up. When you throw something away, it contributes to pollution and gasses being emitted into the air because of the disposal process of burning waste. Staying green can help the environment be healthier. That is why things have been created like Pinterest or local resale shops to give those unwanted products by one to another who can make use of them. There are lots of ways to take something unusable and make it into something, whether doing it yourself or donating to be recycled into new things.

Works Cited

“Football.” How Products are Made. Advamag INC. n.d. Made How, Vol 3.  8 Nov. 2015.

Zarda, Brett. “The Making of a Football-A behind-the-seams look at where the magic begins.” Popular Science. Bonnier Corporation. 30 Jan. 2009. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.

“How its Made-Footballs.”  Science Channel. Discovery.  n.p. 29 May 2010. Web. 8.Nov. 2015.

“Our Factory” Wilson. Wilson Inc. n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2015.