Columbia Sportswear is getting sportier with a host of licensing and sponsorship deals.
The biggest surprise was its partnership with Manchester United, one of England’s most popular soccer teams, to become the team’s first Official Outdoor Apparel Partner. Columbia will create a dual branded outerwear for outdoor pursuits, including hiking, climbing, mountaineering, and water and snow activities. The collection will debut in fall 2016.
Manchester’s Managing Director, Richard Arnold, said the partnership joins two brands with a rich history – Columbia starting in 1938 and Manchester in 1878 – and a shared commitment to performance and innovation. Manchester has won 62 trophies and garnered a dedicated global community of more than 650 million followers.
“We look forward to working together to provide our fans with a new way of expressing their support for the Club via our range of branded outdoor apparel,” said Arnold. “No matter what activity they are partaking in, this partnership will help the Club to accompany our fans wherever they go.”
For Columbia, the agreement is similar to its deal starting in Spring 2015 to make co-branded sportswear, outerwear and accessories with the Dallas Cowboys. Through Outdoor Custom Sportswear (OCS), Columbia has similar licensing deals with MLB, the NBA and hundreds of college teams.
Beyond driving brand awareness in the U.K., given Manchester United’s sizeable, global fan base, Columbia saw a significant sales opportunity in its focus markets across Europe, Asia and the Americas. Said SVP of Columbia Merchandising and Design, Joe Boyle, “Together, we will deliver to Manchester United fans around the world an attractive line of outerwear featuring Columbia’s most advanced proprietary technologies.”
In golf, a category the company first entered in 2009, Columbia will sponsor several professional players for the first time to support a much broader collection of performance sportswear and outerwear designed for the links. The collection features Omni-Freeze ZERO sweat-activated cooling polo shirts, Omni-Tech waterproof breathable jackets, and several pieces that offer Omni-Shade sun protection to help golfers stay on the course in any weather. Overall the 28 golf styles include a colorful assortment of classic polos, breathable rainwear and windbreakers, as well as performance shorts and pants.
Elite golfers sporting Columbia Golf on this year’s PGA Tour will include Robert Garrigus, Jason Kokrak and Ryan Palmer. “I’ve worn Columbia in the outdoors for most of my life, and am thrilled they are finally entering the golf arena,” said Palmer. “I’m very impressed by the fabrics, the fit and the color combinations. My apparel is part of my equipment, and I can’t wait to play in this new collection on tour this year.”
“Our roster of golfers is as passionate about the outdoors as we are,” said Stu Redsun, chief marketing officer at Columbia. “These guys love to hunt, hike, ski and fish every chance they get. Many of them are as comfortable casting a fly rod as they are with a wedge.”
“Our roster of golfers is as passionate about the outdoors as we are.” Stu Redsun, chief marketing officer at Columbia
The new partnerships build on the Columbia brand’s expansion into performance underwear through a deal, announced in December, with Delta Galil, which already held the global license for Columbia socks. The arrangement marks the first time Columbia will be distributing women’s sports bras and underwear as well as men’s underwear.
Said Isaac Dabah, CEO of Delta Galil, “This represents an important growth opportunity for our business as activewear remains a strong contributor to our overall sales.”
Finally, Columbia in mid-January signed a new sun and optical deal with Marchon Eyewear Inc., replacing a former licensee. Marchon’s licensing partners already include Nike, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Sean Jean and Ferragamo. Collections will include eyewear specially engineered for sport fishermen.
Marchon Chief Executive Officer Claudio Gottardi said, “Columbia presents exciting opportunities for Marchon while further enhancing our Sport/Performance division. With a global reputation for innovation, quality and performance, Columbia fits perfectly into Marchon’s brand portfolio.”
Columbia sportswear’s Director of Licensing Matt Merriman added: “Our shared goal is to deliver an innovative eyewear line that enhances our customers’ experiences in the outdoors. Whether you are on the water, on the trail or cruising around town, the new line will do just that.”
– Photos courtesy Columbia Sportswear