SBJ/January 28-February 3, 2013/Mareketing and Sponsorship

Firm hits restart on ‘Starter jacket’

Starter’s satin jacket, which fueled the original licensed sports apparel boom of the 1980s, is being relaunched with the Super Bowl as a backdrop and licenses from the NFL, NBA and NCAA.

Former New York Giants linebacker Carl Banks’ G-III Apparel Group is bringing back Starter’s once-ubiquitous satin jacket with Iconix Brand Group, which has owned the Starter trademark since 2007. The satin jacket and a breakaway half-zip pullover jacket will be in what Banks termed “limited distribution” — from 10 to 15 sports specialty and “upstairs” department stores — for back-to-school sales in July and August.

What became known as the “Starter jacket” returns with a price tag of $150, along with the breakaway priced at $170.

“This is a legacy play for a brand we see as resurgent,” said Banks, a Starter endorser as an NFL player. “Starter really shaped me, in terms of going into the licensed sports apparel business. The whole culture of sports licensed apparel today was set by what Starter did back then, so being part of the relaunch is exciting and gratifying.”

The renaissance starts with a Starter Super Bowl XLVII satin jacket that will be sold this week in New Orleans.

“Some of the old Starter jackets are going on eBay for $400,” said Seth Horowitz, the former
The satin jacket, worn by John Robinson in the mid-1980s (right), is back for the Super Bowl.
Modell’s Sporting Goods executive who now heads the men’s division at Iconix. “Consumers still know the brand, so we’ll just update it.”

To underscore the NFL license and its 32 teams, Starter is opening an ice cream parlor offering 32 flavors along Chartres Street in New Orleans during Super Bowl week where the new line will be shown to the trade. Beyond the Super Bowl, Starter is beefing up its signage inventory and has deals with 12 NBA teams and some NCAA basketball programs.

Peter Stern’s Strategic agency of New York is Starter’s sports agency of record.

“I was around here [the NFL] for the first run by Starter, so I’m eager to see how this plays out as a premium product,” said Leo Kane, NFL senior vice president of consumer products. “Hopefully, this will restart the whole outerwear category, which was huge for us.”

Starter once had licenses with MLB, the NBA, NFL, NHL, and more than 100 colleges and universities. The Starter jacket was worn on nearly every MLB field. In switching from traditional nylon to satin, the jackets showed the possibilities inherent in combining authentic athletic apparel with fashion sensibilities and made Starter founder David Beckerman, who started as a raincoat maker, a wealthy and powerful man in the sports industry.

“What goes around always comes around,” said 16W Marketing principal Frank Vuono, who ran the NFL’s licensing group from 1985 to 1993 and first took the Starter jacket onto NFL sidelines as a coaches jacket. “For huge popularity like they once had, they’d probably need to get it back on the sidelines, but it was always a classic, colorful look that people responded to.”

Iconix has owned the Starter trademark since 2007 and has sold Starter-branded, but unlicensed, apparel through an exclusive to Wal-Mart since then. The original Starter filed for bankruptcy in 1999.

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