Behind The Shirt

Behind the Shirt w/ Marc Wilson #6: Where do we go from here…?

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I’ve never been one to pull any punches (pun intended…) but I think that most people agree with my opinionated views on this side of the industry. We all know by now that I am more interested in the business side of the MMA Market and more importantly the apparel and gear.

I recently had a conversation with a great sounding board in the industry. Someone who has been selling MMA apparel for over 15 years and has made a very successful career from it. Usually we share the same views on the industry even though he is on the retail side of it and I am on the wholesale and development side. I have had this same conversation with many people, but I think that Scott at Las Vegas Fight Shop had a great view (as in the same as mine) on “What happens next?” in the MMA Apparel Industry.

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So what does happen next?

With costs of advertising in MMA, especially the UFC/Zuffa monopoly rising, and thousands of brands/companies existing and more starting daily, what happens to what we know of “MMA Brands”? Obviously, those who are heavily rooted in the industry will continue to do what they do, but the saavy ones are looking to expand into other avenues knowing how the economy is.

We have all sadly seen the decline of MMA Shops in the past few years. This is mostly due to the fact that a lot of business’ that were started when MMA apparel sales were at their peak were based solely on sales of certain brands and NOTHING to do with smart business people. It is easy to see the owners who do have the business sense and start-up capital to continue on in this industry because, well… they are still open.

In the near future, you will see the successful brands in more mainstream stores as leaders such as Derailed Industries, Trinity Products, One Punch, etc have turned the focus (similar to MMA itself) to mainstream retailers who are better suited for continuous sales and have the capital to expand business. Obviously, this will not work for every brand but look for your big names in some big chains… Sorry.

Now, for the goods! What happens with the brands? What is the direction? Who will continue success in a MMAinstream Market (Trademarked!!!) and what should consumers look for in their favorite brands?

I separate the brands into 3 successful categories:

PERFORMANCE BRANDS:

With an increase in performance apparel in all industries it is easy to group brands who can, or already have moved into the multi-million dollar “Performance Apparel” industry. Some brands may delve into the market with certain skus, but the real leaders will turn their focus to this very successful mainstream line of business. The best example of this type of merge is JACO Clothing (www.jacoclothing.com) who openly admits that they are NOT an MMA brand, but a performance brand who chooses to advertise in MMA due to target markets and age groups. This can easily be seen in their marketing, especially since they make some (apparently) killer Yoga gear… Yup, yoga.

LIFESTYLE BRANDS:

This one can be more difficult to catagorize since there are 2 different directions that the lifestyle brands can take. So if I may… Let’s SUB-CATAGORIZE!!

MMA Background – These brands are the ones who started in MMA that have, or are beginning to branch out into other sports and mainstream markets. Every brand says they are doing it, but rarely do any of them do it with major success. I would love to give you an example of this, but it is too early in the transition to say… Hostility, Punishment, Dirty Boxer, FVSTR come to mind but it is still early.

Lifestyle to MMA – Recently this seems to be the more common success story. Successful lifestyle brands who are using MMA as just another avenue to advertise to sometimes a slightly older market. Just look at: Famous Stars & Straps, Metal Mulisha and rumour is DCMA is in the works too. I am a huge fan of this market, partly because I wear these type of brands, but MORE IMPORTANTLY these are brands who are only investing marketing budget into this market not relying heavily on sales generated by fighters. Don’t be surprised if this market continues to advance.

HIGH FASHION:

– This market is the toughest to conquer, because of the margins and the fact that it has been monopolized by one company for so long. Affliction and it’s subsidiaries have capitalized on this market, and unless something drastic happens I don’t see that changing. Not to burst anyones bubble but the following brands are all under the same umbrella and if you notice there aren’t many others in this category… That’s why it is a monopoly: Extreme Couture, Affliction, American Fighter, Throwdown, etc.

Bubble… POPPED! These types of brands will continue to succeed, but you may have already seen the focus of availability in mainstream stores as well.

Some people will like the direction of “MMA Brands” in the future, but I am sure the historians will have an issue with it. Unfortunately, with a rapidly advancing sport and market this is what happens.

Think back to all of your favorite sports, and now imagine 20 years from now you could buy a “Vintage Collection” of your MMA Brands after they have gone BIG TIME! No matter how hard you try, MMA will no longer be a fringe sport. With mainstream sports, comes big time marketing and brands. So companies, head my advice… Chose your future and focus on one of these 3 styles. I am not saying that MMA Brands are dead, but like my tattoo says “Only the Strong Survive”!

Marc Wilson

Owner – Derailed Industries

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Jeremy Brand started up this lovechild called MMASucka.com back in 2009. It began as a hobby project and has turned into much more. In his spare time, you can find Jeremy on the mats, as he is a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

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