Starter (clothing line)
|North America, Europe, Asia|
|Products||Casual wear and accessories|
Number of employees
|Parent||Iconix Brand Group|
Starter, Inc. is an American clothing manufacturer, focusing of major league sports teams. Starter's current licenses include MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL teams. Non-sports agreements include a partnership with Coca-Cola.
Starter got notability in the early 1990s with its licensed jackets of the main professional sports leagues in the US. Those jackets became iconic and a status symbol of that era. Apart from jackets, some of the products currently manufactured by Starter include casual wear (t-shirts, hoodies, sweatpants, leggins, socks) and accessories (bags, hats).
Rise and expansion
In 1976, the company entered into non-exclusive licensing agreements with a number of professional sports leagues, paying royalties of 8–10% for the right to manufacture and market copies of professional athletic apparel. Its first retail product was a line of jackets emblazoned with the insignias of Major League Baseball teams. Soon the company expanded its licensed apparel line to include headgear, activewear and accessories.
By 1983, the company had entered licensing agreements with the NBA, the NFL, the NHL and the Canadian Football League (CFL). But the company's growth during this decade can also be attributed to an aggressive marketing strategy. Not only had the company made licensed sports apparel a fashion status symbol, it also created brand loyalty by making its "S and Star" logo a prominent part of the apparel's design. Starter innovatively placed its embroidered logo on jacket sleeves and on the back of baseball caps.
Starter won a contract to create the parkas that coaches wore on NFL sidelines. For the retail market, Starter designed the "breakaway jacket", a pullover jacket that closely resembled the coach's parka. Sales in 1989 were $58.9 million. By 1990, they had more than doubled to $124.6 million.
In the early 1990s, Starter began to expand its distribution networks to reach over 25 countries in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. The baseball jackets gave way to a hooded design with a side zipper, and eventually to a padded half-zip pullover. Starter apparel also expanded beyond sports clubs into styles such as plaid. A famous ad campaign featured Hip-Hop stars such as DJ Jazzy Jeff. Within two years, Starter's net sales nearly doubled to $356 million. The company went public on the New York Stock Exchange in April 1993, earning an estimated $98 million. Proceeds from the initial public offering were used to expand sales to Europe and the Pacific Rim and also to launch "Brand Starter", the company's own sportswear line minus team logos. Capitalizing on the high recognizability of its name, Starter went head-to-head against brands such as Champion and Russell.
Starter's competition in the licensed sports apparel business intensified in 1994 when Logo 7 Inc., the 2nd. licensed sports apparel manufacturer, won a much coveted NFL Pro Line license and beefed up its advertising budget in an attempt to knock Starter from its number one position. Overall, the boom in the licensed sports apparel market began to slacken in early 1994, slowing from an average of 38 percent annual growth to 15 percent annual growth. Starter moved into new markets with its licensed sports apparel, focusing on sales to young children and youth, and signed a new contract to manufacture the center ice jersey for the National Hockey League. The company purchased a retail chain, First Pick Stores, for $5 million of new stock in March 1994, and also established a Hong Kong office to better coordinate relations with manufacturers. Beckerman stepped down as president, although he retained the posts of chairman and chief executive. John Tucker, former president and chief executive of a sporting goods and sportswear concern, assumed the position of president.
Decline and restructuring
Although Starter began 1994 with a 23-percent increase over the first quarter 1993, it suffered a loss of $2.2 million in the second quarter. Second quarter 1994 sales were flat: $57.8 million, slightly lower than second quarter sales from 1992. Starter had predicted the loss, which it blamed on late deliveries from vendors, shipping delays to retailers, additional advertising and personnel costs, as well as start-up and contractor costs for a new Memphis distribution facility.
1997 saw Starter become one of three suppliers (along with Champion and then-rival Nike) of uniforms for the NBA, most notably the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. When the original company declined financially, their accounts went to Puma. In 2000, when 29 other MLB teams switched to the MLB Authentic Collection, the New York Yankees were the last team to wear Starter jackets.
The Starter name was purchased in 1999 by Official Starter Properties and Official Starter. These holding companies were in turn purchased by Nike on August 12, 2004 for about $43 million.
Starter partnered with Walmart during the late 2000s/early 2010s. On November 15, 2007, Iconix Brand Group bought the Starter brand from Nike, Inc.. In 2009, Starter signed an exclusive endorsement agreement with quarterback Tony Romo, who was the featured brand ambassador for Starter's national advertising. In those years, Starter manufactured compression shirts, similar to Under Armour brand compression shirts, compression shorts, basketball shorts, snapbacks for other companies/brands, basketball sneakers, tennis shoes, sport team logo-less jackets and slide sandals. Starter had a Tony Romo line of track pants, jerseys and jackets. On March 12, 2013 it was announced that Starter would be relaunching the Starter satin and pull-over jackets in the latter half of Summer in Foot Locker stores and Sports Authority stores within the United States and Canada. The new line of satin and pull-over jackets were sold in stores and online. Starter operated with the assistance of G-III Apparel Group, which produces the jackets had helped Starter acquire licensing to the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL and NCAA.
On July 24, 2018, it was announced that Starter was selected as the official on-field apparel and game day uniform supplier for all eight teams of the Alliance of American Football, which would shut down midway through its only season in 2019. Starter provided equipment to all teams until the league folded in April 2019. In November 2019, the company announced an agreement with Coca-Cola to produce and commercialise apparel with the logo and image of the brand.
- San Diego Chargers (1994–98)
- Miami Dolphins (1997–98)
- Philadelphia Eagles (1997–98)
- New York Jets (1999–2000)
- Green Bay Packers (1992–96)
- New England Patriots (1995–98)
- Los Angeles Raiders (1992–95)
- Baltimore Ravens (1997–98)
- Washington Redskins (1991–96, 1998)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (1992–96)
- Minnesota Vikings (1995–98)
- NHL – Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, Florida Panthers, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings, Montreal Canadiens, New York Rangers, Phoenix Coyotes, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and apparel supplier of the New Jersey Devils 1992-1996
Merchandising licensed manufacturer
During the 1980s and 1990s, Starter was a prominent manufacturer in the market of licensed uniforms of the main sports leagues in USA and Canada. The following is a list of the products made and commercialized by the company in those years:
- AAF – all teams (2019)
- CFL – all teams (1993-1999)
- NFL – all teams (1992–1998)
- NHL – all teams (1994–1999)
- History of Starter - official site
- Starter history at Funding Universe website
- Starter Black Label Teams Up with Coca-Cola for a Collegiate Inspired Capsule Collection on Iconix Brand, 1 Nov 2019
- Starter black label products, 2 Aug 2020
- Look For The Star: How Starter Jackets Became The Iconic Clothing Of The Early ’90s by Jamie Cooper, 31 Jan 2017
- NIKE SELLS STARTER TO ICONIX BRAND GROUP from Nike Inc. website, 15 Nov 2007
- "This Coach Knows Clothes", Sports Illustrated, 1997-03-10 Archived January 14, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
- COMPANY NEWS; NIKE BUYS OFFICIAL STARTER AND ENTERS DISCOUNT MARKET, The New York Times, 12 Aug 2004
- "Alliance of American Football strikes multi-year uniform, apparel deal with Starter", CBSSports.com, 24 July 2018
- Starter Coca-Cola collection
- NFL teams uniform suppliers at the Gridiron Uniform Database
- "Cowboys QB Tony Romo signs apparel endorsement deal", Star-Telegram, 19 Sep 2008
- "Report: Tony Romo signs endorsement deal with Under Armour" on SI.com
- Oxford United FC Starter 2016-17 Home Kit on Todo sobre Camisetas, 4 Jul 2016