Retailers are recruiting athletes and crowning them “brand ambassadors.”
Banana Republic has teamed with Cleveland Cavaliers power forward and gold medalist Kevin Love, marking the first time Banana’s brought on a style ambassador.
Meanwhile, Express has signed baseball all-star Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs as a men’s brand ambassador. Bryant joins the retailer’s roster of brand ambassadors which has included Stephen Curry of the Golden Gate Warriors. Bryant appears in a new marketing and advertising campaign in print, digital, social media and in-store. During the 2015 season, Bryant won the National League’s rookie of the year award, leading the Cubs to their first National League Championship series in 12 years.
“Express has consistently been my go-to brand — whether I’m suiting up for press conferences or relaxing in jeans on my off days,” said Bryant.
“Kris is one of the world’s most talented athletes and with his confident style, hard work ethic and unrelenting determination, we know he is going to be a game-changer for baseball and Express,” said David Kornberg, Express president and chief executive officer.
The right-handed player hit the longest recorded home run on Sept. 6, 2015 — 495 feet — in a game against Arizona.
Express has Bryant wearing outfits for different occasions including classic cotton sateen “photographer” suits and Tech 1MX shirts for dressing up, to casual stretch denim and signature polos.
Love will be in Banana Republic’s spring campaign, launching Tuesday, when the spring collection shows up in stores and on bananarepublic.com. Known for his long-range shot, Love is in his second season with the Cavaliers and eighth NBA season.
“Kevin embodies the confidence and optimism our customers find inspiring,” said Aimee Lapic, senior vice president and general manager of customer experience for Banana Republic.
“Banana Republic is such a classic brand,” said Love. “Since I am always on the move, it is important that my clothes are not only stylish, but are functional as well. Banana Republic absolutely hits the mark on both.”
Banana could use a hit. In February, comp-store sales were down 11 percent.
Increasingly, retailers have been collaborating with sports figures on private label collections and fashion campaigns. In the past two weeks, Macy’s disclosed a partnership with Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks, Nickelodeon and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a boys’ active line, and another with Shaun White, the Olympic gold medal snowboarder and skateboarder, on a men’s capsule collection. Previously, White collaborated with Target on a boys’ collection.
J.C. Penney Co. last fall launched a collection with former New York Giant football star Michael Strahan which includes suit separates, sport coats, dress shirts, neckwear, belts and accessories and will introduce Strahan activewear in advance of Father’s Day.
Belk Inc. has carried its private Made Cam Newton men’s line for several seasons. Newton plays quarterback for the Carolina Panthers and made it all the way to Super Bowl 50 in February before losing to the Denver Broncos.