IN A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
WHAT MAKES A true fan? It seems to be more than simple enthusiasm. A dedicated fan will drive hundreds of miles and pay hundreds of dollars to see the source of his or her admiration. In a way, a dedicated fan is much like an adolescent in love. The fan is dedicated to the point of irrationality. No wrong can be perpetrated that will sway the fan’s feelings. No loss is great enough to make the fan lose hope; no foul is ever fairly called in the fan’s mind.
It’s best not to inadvertently insult a fan. Luckily, most are easy to spot. Most fans are given a plethora of apparel options to best display the object of their affection (obsession). From high school wrestling and chess teams, to college crew and ultimate Frisbee teams, to the professional sports leagues, fan apparel is everywhere.
According to Michael Chen, marketing manager at Tonix, Fremont, Calif., “The best team apparel is styled to stand out from the crowd and highlight team colors.” Chen continued, pointing out, “Fans and teams want to distinguish themselves from others
and one of the best ways to do this is through their apparel. In addition, team apparel is generally designed to allow for ease of decoration of the school logo [or] name.”
While T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts have traditionally been the best selling items, Craig Dudley, vice president of sales and marketing at Ouray Sportswear, Englewood, Colo., said performance apparel is the fastest growing segment of the market. Chen agreed. “Performance features matter now more than ever before,” he said. “Moisture management properties and breathability continue to be highly sought after.” While these factors are important, they do not seem to be the most important.
Overall, quality seems to be the greatest factor in selling fan apparel, especially when dealing with professional teams, leagues or individuals. Dudley said big companies, such as Champion and Nike are very influential in the professional fan arena. “The marketplace really expects quality,” Dudley said, “because the bar has been set high by those larger companies.”