Follow the Leaders
GEORGE W. BUSH. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Franklin D. Roosevelt. What do all these men have in common, aside from the obvious?
Need another clue? These are not the only famous faces to have this shared pastime on their resume. To name but a few, Katie Couric, Madonna and Meryl Streep also have their roots in similar soil.
Giving up already? These well-known folks, all at the apex of their respective industries, got their start as the original No. 1 fans—cheerleaders.
The connection is no coincidence. Regardless of whether it’s yelling out cheers, dominating the box office, topping the music charts or even governing the free world, the word “leader” is right in the name. Is it any wonder they went from the sidelines to the spotlight?
JOIN THE FAN CLUB
Cheerleading and dance teams are quickly becoming a popular and viable sector for promotional products. “The cheer market encompasses such a wide range of ages and events from weekend recreation sports to high-level organized sports,” noted Chad Trollinger, director of marketing for Augusta, Georgia-based Augusta Sportswear. And though cheerleading tradtionally prompts thoughts of girls in skirts jumping around to support the “real athletes,” the activity has undergone vast changes over the years. Today’s cheerleaders and dance-team members attend training camps, compete on the national level and practice year-round, in addition to their two-season spirit duties. This leaves the playing field wide open for distributors looking to outfit squad members in a variety of promotional wearables.
“We look at cheer as being what the girls … that are actually on the cheer squad [are wearing] with the pom-poms and cheering on the sidelines or in competitions,” Trollinger explained. These styles exist to enhance the uniform and can include warm-ups, shorts, headbands and sweatshirts. The offerings have become so diverse, in fact, suppliers such as Boxercraft have created catalogs to exclusively house their cheer collections.
Felicia Ruiz, an account executive for the Atlanta, Georgia-based company affirmed this was a strategic move to ease customers’ ordering
in what has become a high-demand sector. “We have definitely seen an improvement in cheer/dance related product sales since the implementation of our Cheer Catalog. The same products were available before … but having all those related items in one place makes everything so much simpler,” she said.
BE TRUE TO YOUR SCHOOL
Thanks to their inherent aptitude for leading crowds (it’s historically proven, see first paragraph), cheer and dance teams are a natural starting point from which suppliers can create entire fan-gear programs. Product popularity has progressively extended to the parents on the bleachers, said Trollinger. Plus, “All booster clubs utilize these styles, [and] college bookstores and fraternities use them,” he added.
However, even in one big, happy family of team spirit, each contingent of wearer has distinct needs. Because of the athletic nature of cheerleading and dance, their accompanying apparel needs to incorporate performance elements. “Four-way stretch allows for increased mobility, and as you know, these girls are moving a lot during their competitions,” Trollinger said. “Also, the moisture-
wicking and antimicrobial properties work together in keeping the athlete cool and dry and to keep odor-causing microbes from growing,”
Ruiz was also quick to point out that for squads especially, style is not to be sacrificed: “Cheerleaders and dancers are looking for the trendiest items to distinguish themselves from other teams/sports.”
By contrast, fan gear on the whole is a little more casual, and the category a little more broad. It can include crossover items such as hats, T-shirts and outerwear styles, as well as blankets and even “accessories,” such as crowd-enhancement props. Ruiz said, “Other fan wear is more focused on team names and colors.”
The good news is, Trollinger maintained, a complementary relationship can and should exist between the two groups. Since fan gear is a natural outgrowth of cheerleading apparel, a school-spirit program that encompasses both elements can be an easy sell. After all, the garments’ reasons for
being are the same across the board—support, encouragement and die-hard sportsmanship. What brings it all together is, naturally, a matching color palette and the presence of a logo or mascot. The home team never looked so good.