While RJ Barrett had plenty of eyes on him at the NBA Draft, the team at custom apparel company Indochino was hoping his outfit would garner attention as well.
The Canadian company signed the New York Knicks selection as a brand ambassador to a multi-year deal prior to the draft. It was the third signature athlete deal for the company, following its deals with Didi Gregorious and Xander Bogaerts, the shortstops for the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, respectively. The brand also has larger team deals with the Yankees and the Red Sox.
Indochino branched into sports marketing three years ago with the Yankees and currently has approximately 6% of its eight-figure media budget in sports, said Drew Green, the company’s CEO. Green said he could see the number grow to up to 15% in the coming years with calculated moves like the Barrett deal.
“We took a bet he’d go to the Knicks, in one of our biggest markets and he was wearing our suit on draft night – we were really front and center, it was a home run,” said Green, also noting Barrett’s Canadian roots. “We’re great admirers of RJ as a person, a great athlete. He’s a young man that stands for everything we stand for. It was a calculated bet, we knew. the suit would garner a lot of attention, we didn’t guess on that.”
Barrett’s deal includes a range of activations and campaigns and an RJ Barrett collection of custom apparel and customizations. The deals with the Yankees and Red Sox include signage at the stadiums and showroom activations.
Based in Vancouver, Indochino started in 2007 as an online-only custom apparel brand, making shirts, pants, blazers, overcoats and suits. Four years ago, the company made a “massive commitment” to a physical retail expansion and has grown to 46 showrooms across North America with 800 employees. Still, 68% of the sales are through digital channels. Currently only a men’s brand, Green mentioned a possible launch of a women’s line soon.
Green said that physical growth also led to a focus on the brand. which made an entry into sports marketing apparent. So two years ago, the company entered into a test partnership with Yankees, becoming the team’s “Official Made to Measure Brand,” in reference to the company’s customized approach to clothing.
“One of the things we believe is there’s nothing better than when you have nice fitted pants and shirt or suit; you just feel great, more confident,” he said. “When I look around to see who’s the most successful, it’s really athletes. They work hard, they are committed to their craft and getting to the highest level, and they inspire. We really thought it’d be a tremendous opportunity to associate our brand with sports.”
As the test with the Yankees went well, Green said only being the one side of one of sports’ greatest rivalries within two of Indochino’s biggest markets didn’t sit well. So the company signed a partnership with the Red Sox, which Green believes makes them one of the few companies to successfully partner with both sides simultaneously.
“We are thrilled to partner with Indochino as they continue to broaden their footprint in the Boston area,” Red Sox EVP Troup Parkinson said at the time of the announcement in March. “Giving customers the ability to bring their design vision to life is incredible.”
Aside from those two team partnerships, Green believes much of the focus moving forward will be “influencer-based” and with individual players. In a similar move, the company’s suits were featured on 72 NHL broadcasts.
Green said fashion has always been a piece of sports, dating back to athletes like Joe Namath and Reggie Jackson who made statements with their clothing. Now, however, he says with social media and constant media coverage, players are more focused on what they wear than before.
“The last decade we’ve seen more and more athletes becoming their own brand and caring about what they represent and even becoming their own conglomerate,” Green said. “How they look is important to that. With a guy like RJ, he has a chance to be a generational athlete with a 20-plus year career and we’re at the beginning with him and hope to be with him for many years to come.”