SBJ/September 25 - October 1, 2006/This Weeks News

Small costume firm gets piece of Ricky Bobby

Ricky Bobby screamed “I wanna go fast!,” and speed is of the essence for Robert Berman and his costume-making company.

Rasta Imposta called Wonder Bread, Sony
Pictures and NASCAR to pitch its idea.
Berman, president and CEO of Rasta Imposta, Runnemede, N.J., recently signed a two-year licensing deal with NASCAR that gives his company the rights to produce authentic Ricky Bobby costumes, complete with the marks of Wonder Bread and other sponsors from the movie “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Now he’s feverishly working to get those costumes to the market.

“This is a real coup for us,” Berman said. “We’re a smaller company [30 employees, $10 million in annual sales], but we convinced NASCAR that this is something we can get turned around.”

The first Ricky Bobby costumes will be produced in the next week or two — “We’re cutting the fabric now,” Berman said — and the goal is to have them at retail outlets such as Party City, Spencer’s and others no later than Oct. 15. About 5,000 units will be produced, and they are expected to cost between $50 and $60.

While Rasta Imposta normally does not accept orders from its office or its Web site, www.rastaimposta.com, it will make exceptions for the Ricky Bobby costume because of the timing.

Berman hopes the Ricky Bobby deal could lead to more business with NASCAR, which will receive royalties of 14 percent of the costume’s sales, plus an undisclosed up-front fee. Berman, who founded Rasta Imposta in 1992 with the creation of the dreadlock tam, envisions eventually producing authentic driver costumes.

Berman got the idea for a Ricky Bobby costume last month when he saw a commercial for “Talladega Nights.” Rasta Imposta’s line of licensed costumes include a Wonder Bread outfit and a Speed Racer suit, as well as assorted candies, cereal characters and other off-the-wall items.

Berman first called his Wonder Bread contact at Nancy Bailey & Associates, which told him to call Sony Pictures, which told him to call NASCAR because the rights were NASCAR’s to sell. After leaving umpteen messages, Berman finally got through to make his pitch.

“It took a lot of determination and stamina,” he said. “I just kept calling. They were probably in meetings talking about multimillion-dollar deals and here was this smaller company that kept bugging them. But now we’ve got a great opportunity.”

“Talladega Nights” debuted Aug. 4 and has grossed $145 million, making it the summer’s top movie at the box office in a runaway.

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