Starter, owned by Iconix Brand Group, jumped back into the player endorsement game with the signing of Kevin Love, the star power forward just acquired by the Clevelend Cavaliers.
The signing was heralded by the placement of a giant billboard in in downtown Cleveland sitting on the corner of Prospect Avenue and Huron Road East, close to both the homes of the Cavs and Indians. The three-time All Star is shown wearing a retro Cavs jacket Starter began selling last year. The V in Love’s name incorporates that 80s style logo.
Love, who had been with the Minnesota Timberwolves, will appear in Starters national advertising campaign and other marketing initiatives during this year and next.
At Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference, Neil Cole, Iconixs chairman, president and CEO, acknowledged that Starter signed Love and also just signed Eric Decker, the New York Jets wide receiver.
He said distribution for Starter is really incredible. The brand has a strong business as an exclusive basics and footwear line at Wal-Mart, and recently brought back authentic Starter satin jackets through licenses with the NFL, the NBA, MLB and NCAA that sell through Dicks SG, The Sports Authority, Foot Locker and elsewhere. Starter Black Label, a premium collaborative smaller business, sells to higher-end specialty stores.
I think Starter is a unique and powerful athletic brand with a rich heritage, said Cole. Were going to continue to sign high profile athletes.
In its heyday in the mid-nineties, players found in advertisements for Starter included Emmitt Smith (Dallas Cowboys), Jerome Bettis (Pittsburgh Steelers), Cal Ripkin, Jr. (Baltimore Orioles), Mark Messier (New York Rangers), Damon Stoudamire (Toronto Raptors) and Jaromir Jagr, (Pittsburgh Penguins).
In his presentation, Cole said Iconix “continues to be acquisitive” with the support of a strong balance sheet. After starting with legacy brands Candie’s and Bongo, it has acquired 33 trademarks over the last nine years, including Starter, Danskin, Umbro and OP in the sports space as well as Rocawear, Ecko, Zoo York and Ed Hardy in the urban space. Many of the brands have been licensed to Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Macy’s, and other retailers around the world. Royalty income is expected to come in over $450 million in 2014.
The acquisition focus continues to be seeking out iconic brands with existing or potential licensing opportunities. Asked about the current M&A market, Cole said Iconix general targets about 20 companies at a time, either in direct discussions or tracking them as potential candidates. But he admitted its tough to access whether its a more or less merger-conducive environment since the action is global.
He added, I would think as the world continues to consolidate as weve seen it’s done over the last 10, 20 years and continues to do, there will continue to be more opportunities for companies that have proven track records like Iconix.