SBJ/Nov. 11-17, 2013/Franchises

Hip-hop sensibility fuels new L.A. Kings line

Mister Cartoon, a canvas and tattoo artist, has designed for Nike and Vans, but never for a pro or college sports team.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
For Los Angeles street artist Mister Cartoon, designing a merchandise line for the Los Angeles Kings is the fulfillment of a dream he had in the early days of hip-hop music more than two decades ago.

“Those days, the gear of the Kings was everywhere,” said the 44-year-old canvas and tattoo artist who has designed for Nike and Vans and whose work is popular with children and young adults in the Los Angeles area. “When I first got the call from the Kings asking if I’d work with them, I was high-fiving all of my friends and thinking this was going to be the dopest project I’ve ever done.”

That was three years ago. “These things take a lot longer than I’d have liked,” said the artist, frustrated like others by the 2012-13 NHL lockout. But now, the time has come: The Kings last week began selling a line of apparel that ultimately will include caps, T-shirts and hoodies with Cartoon’s reimagining of the team’s logo. Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick is expected to wear a Cartoon-designed goalie helmet later in the season.

For the Kings, working with Cartoon — whose birth name is Mark Machado — is an intersection of brand extension, pop culture and civic dedication. Cartoon designed the logo for the hip-hop group Cypress Hill, created images for the video game “Grand Theft Auto,” and has tattooed Kobe Bryant, Beyoncé, Eminem, 50 Cent, Justin Timberlake and “Sons of Anarchy” creator Kurt Sutter, among other celebrities.

“Cartoon’s status in this area, with his presence in the youth culture and his art, is viewed by a lot of people as iconic,” said Jonathan Lowe, vice president of marketing for AEG Sports, which owns and operates the Kings. “We saw working with him as a chance to craft a merchandise line, reimagine the Kings brand and create a tie-in with the community.”

A Mister Cartoon-designed goalie helmet is expected to debut later.
Photos: ESTEVAN ORIOL
The Kings are donating all of their proceeds and Cartoon is donating a significant portion of his proceeds from the merchandise to Para Los Niños, a nonprofit organization that has been providing education and family support services to more than 7,500 children in troubled neighborhoods of Los Angeles for the last 33 years. Prices for the Mister Cartoon Collection range from $29.99 to $39.99 for caps and T-shirts to $94.99 for hoodies — in line with the NHL’s Center Ice collection of Kings apparel.

“These kids are from skid row; make no mistake about it,” Cartoon said. “This area has one of the biggest homeless populations in the U.S. The Kings and I both thought that Para Los Niños was the perfect place to benefit from my line.”

Said Avery Bell, director of corporate relations for Para Los Niños, “The funds are needed, but for our kids to have that sports connection to the Kings and an artistic bridge to Mister Cartoon — that’s just as important to us.”

The merchandise is being sold at the Team LA Store at Staples Center as well as online via both the Kings’ official website and TeamLAStore.com. Although the Kings are donating all of their proceeds to charity, the club stands to benefit from the exposure the new line will provide.

“Many of my followers who haven’t checked out the Kings and the NHL are going to now,” Cartoon said.

The Kings’ Lowe said the club hopes to work with other artists on merchandise lines in the future.

Cartoon, who unveiled a Kings mural at the charter school of Para Los Niños and spoke to the students about creativity at an appearance last month, has never worked with a professional or college sports team before his partnership with the Kings.

“The Kings were a natural for me because I work in black and white and black and gray,” he said, noting that he took about a month to come up his version of the Kings’ marks. “We’re merging the cultures of sports and hip-hop.”

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