The Drum met up with Christopher Lee, sportswear entrepreneur at Slazenger Heritage, to discuss the launch of Slazenger Heritage and why they're hoping young people are into nostalgia
You’ve just launched the website for the Slazenger Heritage brand. What do you could it will achieve and how do you plan on using it?
We know that awareness of the brand exists. This is a relaunch, although it’s a new category called Heritage. Slazenger has been around for years but since the late seventies or eighties it hasn’t been around in the guise. To get it out there we are letting people know that it exists, who our stockists are and show the celebrities who have worn it. The site will also give an insight to the length and the breadth of Slazenger’s heritage which started in 1881. What we will be featuring through the website is that we will be redesigning some of the Heritage pieces that have been involved in the military when they worked for the Government during the Second World War, making bayonets and other items. They also made clothing during the Crimean war in the 1800’s which will be one of the themes brought in for winter 2012. Most people know that they been involved in cricket and tennis, but the number of other sports that they’ve been involved with that we can tap into in the future is phenomenal really.
Do you hope that the wide breadth of sport that the brand has been involved in will open up a wider audience of consumers?
I think it will. All those words that people conjure up when you say ‘heritage’, what do they mean exactly? Rather than starting with the basics, with classic pieces such a V necks and Polo necks, through the different categories of sports that we’ve done, we’re able to go back and expand on the range. For example, we are selling for spring/summer next year; Slazenger also sponsored a northern motor racing team in the 1950’s, so we can legitimately do the jackets that they had or a biker influenced product as well. Having a website legitimatises us. Online we have a lot of archive photos of people such as Miss Slazenger accepting a trophy at one of the meetings from 1953. We can draw on these things really.
How important is online as a marketing tool? Will your marketing be driven through the website?
I’ve been in this game for quite a few years and over that time I’ve been using PR and product placement, so we’ve been using people such as Ian Wright on Channel 5, Soccer AM presenter Max Rushden wearing our clothes, Something for the Weekend chef Simon Rimmer, Stephen Mulhern from Britain’s Got More Talent as well. We’ve even had Dermot O’Leary’s agency onto us as he wants to wear some of our clothes. We’ve also had a lot of bands as well. So there are a lot of brand activities that we will be featuring on the website and there might be some special video links to special bands who are wearing the brand. PR is the main thing, but we’re planning on doing something big for 2012 when we relaunch Croquet. Slazenger used to make croquet sets, the same with Tennis. They pioneered croquet and they pioneered Tennis so again we’ve got some promotional activities around that. We’ll do some events in the summer on croquet as well, so there is a massive archive which we are able to tap into.
How important is the archive to your promotional activities?
Everything we do will stem from the archive. I always try and think horizontally rather than vertically. For example, our business cards are all old style cigarette cards, whether they be for golf, cricket or tennis and we put our details on the pack. The same is true of our photoshoots as well. We recently had a photoshoot at a merchant tailors and they had a pavilion which was built the same year as the brand was established in 1881, and the shoot was black and white or sepia type photographs while the product was in colour. So we’re always looking back to the past. The website as well, the way that is had been created is similar to the photoshoot being in black and white and colour.
Who is the target consumer you’re aiming to reach?
It is 18-30 really, although we obviously touch above and below that too. The interesting thing is that a lot of guys used to wear Slazenger in the 70’s and early 80’s are now in their 40’s, so they remember from a nostalgia point of view when they wore this style, but now there’s a new up-and-coming trend for bands and students who appreciate what it is as well, who like the nostalgia of it all.
Do you intend to look to a female consumer market in the future?
At the moment we don’t. The licence I have allows me to do women’s, but we need to bed down the men’s range first and foremost. Sometimes you can run too fast with these things. We’ve planned as far as 2013 at the moment something could happen down the line.
The website has launched in the middle of what has been nicknamed ‘the Summer of Sport’, how have you used all the events taking place in recent weeks, such as the World Cup and Wimbledon, to get people to engage with the brand?
Slazenger made the 1966 World Cup ball, so we relaunched the ball, made 1966 of them and sold them for £19.66 retail and we also did a couple of polos for it. So we tapped into that and that has been successful for us. On the tennis side, Damon Albarn from Blur in the video for ‘Parklife’, he wears a Slazenger tracksuit. So we’ve used that to coincide with the Spring/Summer so that it came out alongside the tennis and that has gotten us a lot of recognition. We were at Stitch last week where everyone mentioned the press we’ve had.
There are three types of customers we have to remember. The internal customer as we have to sell to ourselves what we do, the second customer is the buyer and how you communicate to them and the third customer is the consumer themselves, so we are always trying to put a cohesive message out. It might say slightly different things, but underlined is a cohesive message and everyone seems to like the fact that we tap into the heritage archive.
Ultimately the product stands up for itself. You can’t lie to people; it has to be a decent product. When phoning a buyer, you can’t just ask them if they want to buy a product. You have to let them see it somewhere, and then they might see it on someone and then they might see it on a television personality, then it might take another buyer to say to them or see it in a store, and that’s when they know that it is good and that’s how brand develop. Through having our website, through PR, having point of sale, all of those things, bit-by-bit can garner more interest in your brand.