Fall is widely recognized as the peak season for football, outdoor sports such as hunting and fishing, or both, depending on your customers’ passions. As such, retail outlets sell lots of merchandise geared toward one of these two sporting worlds; because the market demands it, manufacturers are trying to find new and inventive ways to milk the cash cows.
According to the Collegiate Licensing Co. (CLC), annual retail sales for collegiate licensing were $4.62 billion in 2012, and revenues have continued to rise since then. While all collegiate sports contribute to this number, sales surrounding football — even during the months the sport is played — consist of the bulk of licensed retail sales in this sector.
It is believed that 142.6 million Americans participated in outdoor activities in 2013, while 37.4 million sportsmen and women live in the United States, according to a study done by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation in 2011. Plenty of companies sell either outdoor- or collegiate-licensed goods, but only a select few have combined the approach to appeal to both markets simultaneously.
Starting in fall 2016, Top of the World, which specializes in collegiate licensed headwear, will debut a product line in collaboration with Realtree, which specializes in camouflage and outdoor patterns. With this new product line, the companies hope to tap into a huge market that consists of college football and outdoor sports fans.
“I think you’ll see that there is a massive population of sportsmen and women that is growing every single year,” says Ashley Vickers, director of marketing, Top of the World. “There is such an overlap in the college fan base, and in the sportsmen and women population. We’re really hoping to find that demographic.”
For instance, the deer hunting and college football seasons overlap, with prime time for both activities occurring on weekends during the fall.
“The outdoor consumer likes college football, and it’s right around the time of peak hunting season,” says Kyle Pelletier, licensing account manager, Realtree. “We’ve had a new partnership doing clothing and never had a good tie-in on the headwear as well to capture that partnership. Top of the World has always been on our radar to partner with and things kind of aligned to make that happen.”
Collaborating on Lifestyle Brands
Since Realtree owns the rights to its popular camouflage pattern and Top of the World has rights to collegiate licensed headwear, the partnership can truly be classified as symbiotic, and has been in the works for about five years, says Mike Ross, director of licensing, Top of the World.
Another recent development working in the brands’ favor is that camouflage and collegiate licensed gear aren’t just being worn during hunting or football games, respectively. They’re considered lifestyle brands that are worn year round, Vickers says.
Realtree and Top of the World aren’t the only ones benefitting from this partnership. “Several schools have expressed to me that they’re very excited to see the two brands together and being able to be presented to the retailer,” Pelletier says.
Patterns and Colors
Realtree is including several popular designs in the 2016 collaborative line with Top of the World, including the Realtree Xtra and Realtree Max-5. The latter uses natural elements like tree trunks, limbs and leaves, and arranges these elements over large, open areas. Realtree Max-5 is a waterfowl pattern that is ideal for duck hunting.
“[Realtree Xtra is] the No. 1 pattern that we have and the No. 1 branded camouflage in the market,” Pelletier says. “People are very familiar with the patterns and now they have the opportunity to not only have their favorite camo pattern, but also have their favorite school logo on the hat as well. The Extra is kind of your all-over, all-season type pattern and the Max-5 is more for the duck hunting and waterfowl. But there are people who don’t duck hunt that are very attracted to that pattern.”
He adds that Top of the World is using designs presented by Realtree, but has free reign to change the colors to coincide with a college team’s colors.
Also featured in the line will be the Realtree Xtra visor; the Conceal, which is similar to the Xtra but in visor form; the Harbor, which features black Realtree Xtra fabric; the Roughage; the Crew Max; and the Doe, a female-targeted Realtree Xtra hat that features a Blaze Pink pattern.
Renata Hayes, vice president of product development, licensing and marketing, Top of the World, says the women’s category continues to see steady growth. Styles for children also are emphasized in the product line, with smaller sizes available for younger outdoor sports and football enthusiasts.
Hitting the Shelves
The fall 2016 line will hit retail outlets in mid-to-late summer of next year, and will include all the aforementioned styles and designs. However, the companies admit they are most excited about one particular style.
The Realtree Xtra will be available for men, women and children, and, as Realtree’s most popular design, is well suited to be the marquee style for the headwear line, Vickers says.
Additionally, Realtree Xtra will be available in Top of the World’s OneFit and Memory Fit technologies, both of which ensure comfortable fits and convenience for wearers.
“The Memory Fit is patent-pending technology that infuses memory foam into the headband that allows for a more comfortable fit,” Hayes says. “The OneFit is a patent that Top of the World has developed for several years. The easiest way to describe it is it’s a band that allows hats to be ‘one size fits most.’ It’s a flexible-fit band. It allows buyers to condense down sizes they need to carry in stores instead of individual fitted sizes.”