How do you know whether performance apparel will hold up?
When it’s backed by names like Steve Nash, Baker Mayfield, and Matt Barnes, you can usually assume you’re in good hands, which is exactly why Legends has been a fan favorite since Chip Neff founded the activewear brand in 2018.
But getting celebrity athletes behind your brand takes more than just striking a deal and hoping for the best. In fact, Chip has found that partnering with the right people and building relationships with key players in the industry has impacted brand affinity as much as it has influenced product development.
In this episode of The Empowered Marketer, we talk to Chip about:
- Why he prioritizes partnerships over endorsements
- How he incorporates charitable events into his marketing strategy
- Why he thinks physical locations are the future of retail and ecommerce
Listen to the Full Episode
Cara Hogan: Athleisure and performance wear is super trendy right now. So how do you differentiate Legends and make the brand stand out?
Chip Neff: Yeah, this athleisure trend is definitely massive. Ten years ago, you never saw a girl wearing yoga pants, right? Now it’s everyone. It’s at the gym, but it’s also all day at work. It’s what everyone wears. So it’s transitioning more into menswear just because of the comfort level. Wearing a pair of jeans versus a pair of travel pants is way different. The stretchy fabric, the softness of it, is just so much better to sit in and wear.
But I think where we really stand out from everyone else is our partnership with Kobe Bryant’s training facility. It’s called Mamba Sports Academy, and it’s really become our brand house and our testing facility. The benefit for us is that it’s a place where all the top athletes in the world train, and it gives us the access to go and really develop products with some of the best athletes in the world that most brands don’t have access to.
So we build a short, and then we test it on the best athletes in the world, and it’s led to Baker Mayfield, DeShaun Watson, and Saquon Barkley wearing our product. These are athletes who really can put the product through a test. We’re really able to see how our product performs on the guys at the top of the food chain. If it’s performing for them, it would definitely perform for a guy like me who works out a few times a week and just wants something that fits nice and performs well.
Cara: How do you choose which athletes and different celebrities you want to work with? Would you consider yourselves selective?
Chip: As far as partnerships go, yeah, we’re selective on athletes, just making sure that they fit the brand. I think there’s a huge trend where you pay influencers to post about your brand, and consumers are a lot more savvy than they used to be. People can see through that.
So we try to partner with athletes. A great example is Baker Mayfield, who is one of the most exciting NFL athletes right now. He came in, and we started giving him some product and working with him — we became friends with him. And instead of doing a deal with him, he was willing to invest in the company and put money in the company because he believed in it.
So I think that’s really what sets us apart, too. We don’t look to just buy all these athletes and say, “Hey, just wear our product.” That’s all it is, right? You don’t really care what brand it is. It’s whoever pays the most that you sign with. So we’ve tried to create a more grassroots methodology and develop product with these athletes that they actually love and care about.
Cara: How do you get feedback from your customers on the products?
Chip: We send standard emails to get reviews and ask for feedback from our customers, but we also do focus groups where we invite people who have worn the brand and get their feedback in person, which is always nice. Even if the reviews are great, people are writing three sentences, whereas when you can sit down and talk to someone for 30 minutes about a product, you get a lot more insight.
We also partner with some gyms, their athletes, and their trainers, and we give them product to test and give feedback on. So they’re using the product every day in a really hard fashion because that’s what they do for their job. They give us great feedback, and that’s where we can iterate before we go to the full production process. That helps a ton into our design process and we try to be as open as possible — any feedback from anyone is welcome. As long as it fits in line and it makes sense, we definitely put it into our design process.
Cara: Where do you think the future of ecommerce is heading?
Chip: I think consumers are a lot smarter than they were, or they’re just getting so much more used to ecommerce brands. So to be a brand, it’s a lot more competitive now than it used to be. You really have to stand for something and live up to it. It’s hard just to launch a product and just sell.
Back in the day, I used to sell a bunch of stuff on Amazon. You could launch a product, put your own logo on it, and completely crush. Now, people care about quality, they care about what you give back, and what the brand actually means. So I think as the bigger brands continue to grow, it’s about whether your messaging really resonates with people and how true you maintain to it.
Then also the touch points. I think opening up some strategic retail locations where people can come in and see the brand and feel what the brand means is very important. So that’s why we always try to focus on creating grassroots events, giving back to different charities, or letting people interact with the brand, not just online.