When the 13th seeded Ohio Bobcats take on North Carolina tonight in the NCAA Tournament, the team is also playing the underdog role for its apparel sponsor, Russell Athletic.
Twenty five years ago, Russell Athletic was one of the biggest names in sports apparel, along with Champion.
Today, they are a small player in the space, making its name in the value space that fills Walmart and Target stores.
In 2006, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Russell Athletic for $600 million. Since then, the company has led a quiet existence. But this year’s NCAA Tournament, has put the brand back in the public eye, thanks to Russell having its best NCAA Tournament ever. Five teams in the 68-team tournament have worn its gear (Colorado St, Mississippi Valley St, Norfolk State, Ohio & Western Kentucky) and its familiar “R” logo has received the most high profile attention in years.
Russell was previously seen as a leader in the workout clothes space, but Under Armour came in and built a premium space in that market that Nike also embraced. The brand lost a lot of momentum.
“Walmart presents sneakers at a lower price point, but they have a very small share of sales because the last thing a kid wants is to show up wearing low-end shoes,” said Matt Powell, an analyst for SportsOneSource, a sports retail tracking firm. “Russell has the same issue.”Page 1 of 3 | Next Page