SBJ/April 4-10, 2011/Marketing and Sponsorship

NHLPA re-signs Reebok, adds more licensees

Reebok has given up exclusive licensing rights for apparel other than team jerseys and jersey replica T-shirts.
The NHL Players’ Association has signed a five-year extension with longtime apparel partner Reebok, but the manufacturer has given up exclusive licensing rights for apparel other than team jerseys and jersey replica T-shirts.

The NHLPA has signed separate licensing deals with manufacturers Knights Apparel, Old Time Hockey and Sogo T-shirts, and said the total value of its four partnerships is in the high seven-figure range. The new contracts go into effect July 1.

“The player apparel category has grown a lot in the last five years, and there is a tremendous demand for it,” said Adam Larry, director of licensing and associate counsel for the NHLPA. “The licensees we are bringing on board are looking at creative ways to use the personality rights to create new types of product.”

The shift also opens up new retail opportunities for player-branded product with mass-merchant retailers. Reebok’s NHL apparel is carried by Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s, NHL.com and the NHL store in the United States, and Sports Chek, Pro Hockey Life and Jersey City in Canada. Knights Apparel will sell its player-branded goods in Wal-Mart, Target, Meijer, K-Mart, Costco and Sam’s Club stores, and Sogo is carried by Canadian retailers Rona and Canadian Tire as well as Wal-Mart.

Under the licensing deals — in which revenue is shared by manufacturers, the NHLPA and the NHL — manufacturers can feature player numbers, names and likenesses in apparel and headgear.

The NHLPA signed its first apparel and uniform deal with CCM hockey in 1995, and in 2005 Reebok acquired CCM. Keith Leach, Reebok’s director of merchandising, said the company’s apparel sales are dominated by team jerseys and jersey replica T-shirts, which resemble a player’s jersey in design, but are printed on a T-shirt. Leach declined to discuss revenue numbers but said that since the product launched in 2007, the replica T-shirts, which cost $29.99 as opposed to the jersey’s $179.99 price tag, have doubled in revenue each year.

“The jersey and [replica T-shirt] make up the biggest part of our business,” Leach said, “so that is the most important component of maintaining our portfolio moving forward.”

Leach said Reebok would continue to produce player-branded apparel other than the jerseys and replica T-shirts.

Donnie Hodge, president and COO of Knights Apparel, said his company regularly queried the NHLPA about obtaining licensing rights after it signed a separate apparel deal with the NHL in 2001. Knights Apparel, which also has apparel agreements with the NBA, National Basketball Players Association and the NCAA, manufactured T-shirts and other apparel using team branding in its deal with the NHL.

“The player name and number is an important piece, it’s a logical extension of our business,” said Hodge, who declined to comment on the projected revenue of the partnership but said it would be “significant business.”

Bob Magnuson, president of Old Time Sports, said the company will produce lifestyle apparel with the NHLPA rights. Nathan Saleh, president of the Montreal-based Elmau & Associates, which owns the Sogo brand, said his company will create apparel lines using high-definition imagery of players.

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