SBJ/June 26 - July 2, 2000/Marketingsponsorship

Triathlon, Foster Grant extend licensing deal

After just more than a year, it's clear who's behind Foster Grant.

World Triathlon Corp., which owns the Ironman Triathlon, and the trendsetting sunglasses maker have extended their licensing and marketing agreement through 2011. The deal was set to expire next year.

Foster Grant Inc. marketing vice president Bill Potts would not disclose the value of the deal, but he said the company had doubled its sales projections for the first year of the partnership and would do so again in 2000.

"This lets us focus on growing our business for the next 10 years," Potts said. "We haven't really put the pedal to the metal yet in terms of marketing."

Potts said Foster Grant would introduce a performance line of sunglasses in 2001 and probably sponsor a triathlete as part of a stepped-up marketing plan. The current Ironman glasses are a sport line that sells for less than $30.

Foster Grant is one of several Ironman licensees that will combine to sell more than $300 million of branded products in 2000. Other licensees include Timex, Isuzu, Huffy and TwinLab.

"By signing for 10 years after only one year of shipments demonstrates the power of the Ironman name at retail," said Ken Strominger, vice president of marketing and licensing for World Triathlon.

At the same time it aligned itself with Ironman last year, Foster Grant also brought back its popular "Who's That Behind Those Foster Grants?" campaign, spending a reported $5 million in advertising and hiring model Cindy Crawford as a spokeswoman. The 1970s campaign was found in marketing surveys to still resonate with thirty-somethings.

Potts said he hopes Foster Grant's association with the Ironman, which is held each October in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, will propel the company's sales of sport models into the top spot in the $2.5 billion global sunglasses market.

"We have a figure we hope to reach in the next two to three years that would put us at the top," Potts said, again refusing to discuss sales figures or revenue. "If we're successful, it would represent a decent percentage of company sales."

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