Following on the heels of its successful collaboration with the National Football League for last year’s Super Bowl, the retailer is now teaming up with the National Basketball Association for the NBA All-Star Game, scheduled for Madison Square Garden on Feb. 15.
“Our NFL collaboration was really, really successful,” said Kevin Harter, vice president of men’s fashion direction. “We’ve always known that the Bloomingdale’s customer loves pop culture. But now we’ve realized that the Bloomingdale’s men’s customer loves sports.”
In addition, Harter said, “the NBA guys are the new fashion icons. They are immaculate dressers and really set the tone for men’s wear today.”
Bloomingdale’s has installed 16 basketball-inspired pop-up shops at its stores around the country, offering retro-era jerseys, vintage graphic T-shirts and accessories from brands including Mitchell & Ness, Sportiqe, Junk Food, Been Trill, Mark McNairy and Stance. Special NBA All-Star merchandise will also be offered.
The shops are at the 59th Street and SoHo stores in New York City, as well as units in the New York suburbs, Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
“We are always looking for new ways to engage with our fashion-forward fan base, and we felt the NBA shop-in-shop was the perfect opportunity to unite fashion and basketball as we celebrate the NBA All-Star Game’s return to the city,” said Lisa Piken Koper, NBA vice president of licensing.
Frank Berman, Bloomingdale’s executive vice president of marketing, said the retailer “saw the opportunity to tap into the basketball community’s love for fashion through close collaborations, merchandise, visual displays and special events to celebrate this iconic event with fans and shoppers while supporting Mentoring USA.” Last year, Bloomingdale’s enlisted the help of the Council of Fashion Designers of America to have 48 designers create custom helmets for the Super Bowl.
Berman said that while the NBA All-Star Game is a “spectacle” in and of itself, it doesn’t lend itself to a similar initiative. “We thought about it, but decided to go with a different angle.” He said football helmets could be viewed by designers as “a blank canvas,” but the same couldn’t be said of basketball jerseys.
So instead, the retailer worked with the league and designers on the licensed collection — Mark McNairy designed special bomber jackets for the collaboration — and produced a mailer focused on tailored clothing. The direct mail piece, which ships to homes this week, features Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden — and his signature beard — on the cover. It offers a story on the player, who is shown wearing a Freemans Sporting Club made-to-measure suit and touts three online videos with the player “dropping dimes on his personal style,” on the Bloomingdale’s Web site. Harden is also scheduled to make an appearance at the 59th Street flagship on Feb. 12.
The videos, which are a partnership between Bloomingdale’s and GQ, were inspired by “The Walk,” the style moment between the locker room and team bus for players to showcase their off-the-court attire. In the videos, GQ’s executive stylist of publishing, Brett Fahlgren, talks with Harden about everything from how to get the NBA look to dressing for specific body types. An NBA-specific microsite goes live Thursday, where customers can shop and check out the Harden videos.
“Basketball has always been a game of style,” said Harter. “NBA players have become sartorial leaders and, for men interested in dressing well, a go-to source for inspiration.”
In addition to The Walk, the collaboration also hones in on the ath-leisure trend, Harter said. One look in the catalogue, for example, shows a model in a rubberized baseball jacket from Michael Kors over a Mitchell & Ness T and leather shorts from Theory while another offers a Burberry Brit leather jacket over Michael Kors track pants.
The initiative also has a charity component, with an auction of tickets to events surrounding the All-Star game, and to the game itself, as well as merchandise and a Bloomingdale’s shopping spree. All proceeds will benefit Mentoring USA, which provides supportive relationships for youths aged seven to 21.
Berman said there’s an “emerging trend” among customers who are increasingly seeking unique experiences, and “with the All-Star Game in our backyard,” the association made sense.
Bloomingdale’s will install windows with NBA and All-Star merchandise in its Lexington Avenue windows beginning Jan. 19.
In addition to the Harden appearance, other in-store events are also planned around the game, although they are still being planned, Harter said.
The NBA All-Star game will reach fans in 215 countries and will be televised by TNT.