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Corporate Apparel… A Tiger tale! 2014_Mens-Polo_Red_SleeveNike

Author: Rick Eisenhart

Prior to 1996 corporate apparel while widespread, was seen by most companies and organizations as a necessary evil, and had become a stale way to re-enforce a logo. For the most part, corporate apparel fell into 2-3 basic categories, embroidered shirts, (polo and dress) baseball caps, and silk screened tees. Shirts and baseball caps were almost always embellished in the same manner – shirts on the upper left chest, baseball caps over the bill of the cap.

This all changed in 1996 when a child golf prodigy named Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods turned pro. Never had a single golfer so dramatically changed the way we viewed golf, his every shot, from tee to green was covered by television cameras. In his first match or so, it quickly became apparent to his biggest sponsor (Nike), that this unprecedented level of television coverage would present an incredible marketing opportunity. They realized that they could have, in essence, a six hour commercial for Nike golf products every time Tiger took to the course.

And then, almost from the start he began to win and not just tournaments he was winning majors – lots of them – effectively increasing his own brand awareness and those companies he chose to be associated with. In no time he was the gold standard for athlete product endorsements. Phil Knight, president of Nike and self-professed marketing megalomaniac wasted no time in seizing his chance to capitalize. One thing was very apparent to him, most of Tiger’s on-camera time was spent in profile and as a result the Nike logo, where currently positioned was seldom if ever visible. When there was a straight on shot he would often be looking straight down, arms across his chest obliterating the view of the famed swoosh. Designers at Nike re-positioned the logo on all of Tiger’s shirts to the left sleeve and on baseball caps to the left side, where the logo would be clearly seen when Tiger was on-camera in profile.

Reaction in corporate apparel was immediate, soon every major sports equipment and apparel manufacturer were placing their logos on areas of garments that previously had not been considered. Overnight,  Adidas, Reebok, and Puma followed, repositioning their respective logo’s to take full advantage of camera angles used to broadcast specific sports. Soon marketing directors everywhere took note and began to replicate the trend, incorporating websites and company taglines into their apparel. They soon began to see their corporate apparel programs not as a necessary evil but another tool in their marketing tool belt. To this day it is still a very successful and cost effective way to promote brands and increase awareness of products and services.

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