Mo Bamba and Jamal Murray

Express sees its partnership with the NBA as a slam dunk.

The retailer has expanded its multiyear agreement with the NBA that began in the 2017-18 season to introduce a collection of licensed apparel that will bow stores and online in November. The line will start off with men’s graphic Ts and fleece items before expanding into categories such as blazers, dress pants, dress shirts, ties and underwear in 2019. Also next year, the retailer will introduce a corresponding women’s collection.

“Our partnership this year will introduce our first fully licensed collection with graphic Ts and fleece,” said Jim Hilt, executive vice president and chief customer officer of Express. “The collection will have a unique shop experience in stores. We’ll have 13 teams with a wide assortment of products. For the remaining 17 teams in the league we’ll offer items with graphics. As we move into the spring, we’ll introduce apparel to help fans and teams up their style games.”

Express’ strong male following is “a core part of what we do,” Hilt said. “We’re a leader in suits, dress shirts and performance wear. The partnership with the NBA allows us to tell the story of perseverance and performance. When you put on great clothes that perform well, so do you.”

A new marketing and advertising campaign, “NBA Game Changers,” bowing Oct. 16 features NBA All-Star Victor Oladipo of the Indiana Pacers, Mo Bamba of the Orlando Magic and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, as well as NBA stars John Collins of the Hawks and the Denver Nuggets’ Jamal Murray. “These guys really show how performance apparel is important to men everywhere and how it allows you to move. We’re going to be able to showcase these guys on the court wearing our products.”

“The NBA has plenty of women fans,” Hilt said. “We intend to bring them along. We think there’s a wide range of apparel for the women’s assortment. It will be a clear link to a fashion product for women that allows them to have the same performance benefits that the men have.” Asked whether Express will tie in to the WNBA, Hilt said, “Our partnership is with the NBA.”

“We saw great success in our first year with the NBA,” said Hilt, citing the initial “Game Changers” campaign. “We featured four players in the campaign last year. We’re excited about the five guys we’re highlighting this year.”

The effort encompasses Express’ licensed apparel and performance apparel. “We’re one of the leaders of performance suits, shirts, jackets and dress pants,” Hilt said. “For guys that need those things, a great part of the performance story is the design, moisture wicking technology and easy care. Performance wear represents a huge portion of our men’s business. That’s the reason we’re doing the license with the NBA.”

While Hilt declined to discuss the size of Express’ business, he said licensed apparel is a subset of the core.

The marketing and advertising campaign will appear across Express’ digital, social media and in-store platforms as well as the NBA’s digital and social media platforms. In February, Express will have a presence at NBA All-Star 2019 in Charlotte, N.C.

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