HILFIGER ATHLETICS: PUMPING UP THE VOLUME
Byline: Pete Born
NEW YORK — Tommy Hilfiger, who has parlayed his street-savvy fashion instincts into a burgeoning fragrance business, is taking his beauty smarts for a workout.
The designer and his licensee, the Aramis division of Estee Lauder Cos., are about to become the latest entry in the rapidly expanding sport fragrance field, with the introduction next April of Hilfiger Athletics.
The men’s fragrance is planned as a marketing adjunct to Hilfiger’s new sports-oriented men’s apparel line of the same name, which is being showcased in 100 Federated Department Store doors this season.
Without citing dollar figures, Robert Nielsen, president of Aramis International, underscored the ambitious nature of the project. If the fragrance hits its volume target, he said, “this would be the largest fragrance launch in the history of the Estee Lauder group.”
According to industry estimates, to do so, Hilfiger Athletics would have to generate more than the $100 million at retail that the Estee Lauder Pleasures women’s scent did in the 12 months following its 1995 launch.
This week, the designer said the number of Hilfiger Athletics shops will grow to 500 by next spring.
As part of the evolution of the Athletics apparel brand, Hilfiger will ship workout wear in December, clothing he described as “cleaner and sleeker” than the rest of the line.
Hilfiger, who often points out that he designs for the suburban and urban customer, said he started designing athletic clothing as part of his regular sportswear line about five years ago. The decision was then made to spin it off.
The fashion is aimed at those who want look athletic as well as those who want to play. But this is not for the hard-core competitive crowd, Hilfiger noted, saying it’s aimed at those who just like to play basketball or sandlot football recreationally or go skateboarding, snowboarding, surfing or hiking.
“[The customer] doesn’t do it to be competitive,” he said. “He does it for fun.”
Similarly, the fragrance is about having a good time. The executives at Aramis point out the product will be marketed for use after working out; it is not to be worn in the heat of sport.
“We think it is preposterous,” Nielsen said, “to think that people would put on fragrance and go out and play athletics.”
Like the clothing, next spring’s fragrance will be aimed at the old as well as the young. It also has been designed to appeal to women.
Hilfiger said matching fragrance with fashion worked so well for Tommy and for the 1996 women’s follow-up, Tommy Girl, that he decided to do the same with Hilfiger Athletics.
The most powerful element was the joint advertising campaign. Tommy Girl’s ad budget was close to $15 million, sources estimate, and the Athletics campaign will be larger. Hilfiger and Lauder each will ante up half of a $16 million package.
Just as previous Tommy ads featured the children of celebrities, the new campaign will show the sons and daughters of well-known athletes. Among them are the offspring of Kareem Abdul Jabar, Michael Cooper, Julius Irving and Sugar Ray Leonard.
The campaign, featuring TV and magazine ads, was done by Mike Toth, Hilfiger’s agency.
The apparel print ads will begin appearing in February and the fragrance ads will debut in April. Hilfiger will advertise the fashion on TV beginning in January, and Aramis will go on TV with the scent in April and June.
The designer noted that “this amount of horsepower” will give a considerable boost to the Hilfiger name.
In addition to the department store shops, there also will be a Hilfiger Athletics section in the designer’s Rodeo Drive store slated to open Nov. 14.
The new Hilfiger fragrance is the latest entry in what is rapidly becoming a booming category. Annette Green, president of the Fragrance Foundation, cited Ralph Lauren’s Polo Sport and Michael Jordan’s scents as major entries.
“The whole thing came out of the physical fitness revolution of the Eighties,” Green said. The category has evolved to the point that the Olfactory Research Fund is conducting a research project entitled “Sensory Solutions in Sports Rehabilitation.”
Green maintains the marketing potential has been magnified by women’s growing interest in sports. Under her scenario, women not only would buy fragrance as a gift for men — as in the past — but for themselves.
“Fragrances for her and gifts for him, ” she said, adding, “The industry has got to become more niche-directed.”
As part of Lauder’s drive to build the Hilfiger beauty franchise, another women’s fragrance — perhaps a female version of Athletics — is in the works for next fall, executives indicated. The company will take the Hilfiger banner further into the personal care arena by launching a Tommy Hilfiger toiletries line next spring, complete with in-store shops in department stores.
The line will consist of about 50 stockkeeping units. The first 15 or so will be previewed at the opening of Hilfiger’s Beverly Hills store next month. The concept will be tested in department stores in 10 to 12 cities next spring, executives said. Each shop will measure 200 to 600 square feet.
The new Hilfiger Athletics fragrance will be advertised on billboards as well as on TV and in print, but the first scent strips will not appear until August, well after the launch. Pamela Baxter, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Aramis International, said nonfragranced introductions have worked in the past, due to the magnetism of the Hilfiger name.
“Curiosity got the customer to the counter,” she noted.
For the same reason, there is no need to do a gift-with-purchase promotion.
“He has such a strong following,” Baxter said, “we do not need a gwp to get people to buy it.”
The new fragrance will be introduced in 750 department store doors in the spring — mostly in the Hilfiger Athletics apparel shops — and another 750 will be added in the fall, Baxter said.
As in other parts of the business, sell-through will be aided by the presence of an army of in-store selling assistants prowling the aisles. About 500 “personal trainers” will be hired to help launch Hilfiger Athletics, compared with 600 specialists for Tommy and Tommy Girl, Baxter said.
Hilfiger and Nielsen both say Athletics will draw a wider audience than did the original fragrance, which Nielsen estimated has a consumer target of 40 million American men aged 14 to 35. Because of the widespread interest in sports, he estimated the pool of target customers for Athletics is bigger, 60 million men from 18 to 49.
The increased size of the audience decreases the chance of cannibalization, Nielsen speculated. But he’s not taking chances: The old and new fragrances will be reinforced with their own strong promotional campaigns.
The original Tommy print ad has been updated, and sources estimate the company is spending $8 million each on Tommy and Tommy Girl for advertising and promotion this year.
According to sources, an estimated $1.5 million will be spent advertising Tommy on network and cable TV from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5, and another $1.2 million reportedly will be spent on co-op TV with the stores from Dec. 10 to 23.
In addition, 25 million scented blow-in cards promoting Tommy will be inserted in publications in November and December.
The scent for Athletics is still in development, Nielsen said, noting the ingredients will fit the concept, with an effervescent quality to “excite the senses” and provide an unusual and distinctive dry-down.
Like Tommy, the Athletics scent will be labeled a cologne, but have the concentration of an eau de toilette.
A 1.7-oz. spray will retail for $30 and a 3.4-oz. size, for $45. Three to five locker room-oriented ancillary items will be launched, depending on development time. They include a hydrotherapy muscle soak, a cool-down gel, a vitamin body lotion, a deodorant stick and a head-to-toe shampoo.
Prices will range from $15 to $20, Baxter said.
All these initiatives are meant to layer on volume.
“It took Clinique 20 years to grow up, ” Nielsen said of the Lauder division. “Tommy Hilfiger toiletries will happen in half that time or sooner.”
Industry sources have estimated Clinique’s volume at $600 million wholesale for the U.S. alone. Nielsen said he thinks the Hilfiger franchise can reach that volume in 10 years.
So far, the results have been strong. Sources put the size of the Hilfiger business at more than $100 million wholesale for last year. Even though it was launched in 1995, the original Tommy fragrance is still growing — by 10 percent this year, according to sources — and Tommy Girl is moving faster.
The Hilfiger fragrance now generates two-thirds of the Aramis division’s sales; the classic Aramis brand contributes most of the rest.
The entire Aramis business reportedly is expected to generate $100 million at retail for November and December combined in U.S. department stores this year. Three years ago — before Tommy was launched — the figure was $25 million.