New DTC toolkit   //   June 15, 2023

‘This will be our biggest year of growth’: Legends CEO Scott Hochstadt on building an athleticwear brand with the help of sports pros

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Athleticwear brand Legends wants to be the Lululemon of professional sports.

The company — which sells products like basketball shorts, swim trunks and athletic tees — launched in 2019 with a slew of professional athlete investors. Since then, the company has brought on more influencers to its program and — thanks to these partners — has seen sales consistently grow, even though it hasn’t focused much on organic marketing. In 2020, the company made about $10 million, and that grew the following year to about $16 million.

This year, said co-founder and CEO Scott Hochstadt, the focus is on really growing the business. “We’re at a point where we’ve we’ve built the brand,” he said. He’s hired a crack team of retail and marketing operators who are “ready to accelerate things and scale it out.” He joined the Modern Retail Podcast this week and talked about the growth strategy behind Legends.

Hochstadt knows a thing or two about sports and celebrities. After playing lacrosse in college, he brought the sport to the West Coast and ended up launching a lacrosse lifestyle brand that he ultimately sold. Then, with a business partner who was working with big sports stars Kobe Bryant at the time, Legends was born.

“We have the biggest athletes in the world training with us in this spot,” said Hochstadt, “and I have the factories and I have the design capabilities to build products for these guys.” And so, Legends launched with the help of quarterback Baker Mayfield and NBA stars Steve Nash and Matt Barnes, among others.

The white space that Hochstadt saw was a premium sportswear company that speaks to a certain type of athlete. “Vuori is more lifestyle yoga,” he said. “Lulu is your wife’s brand that makes men’s products now.”

For the first couple of years, Legends held individual activations to get the word out. For example, it would sponsor shows with celebrities and hold drops of limited-edition apparel. This helped establish the brand as something more on the elite tier.

But the focus now is on going from small brand major athletes like to a mainstream name.

“We spent a couple of years just building out the team, building out the products and building out the brand,” said Hochstadt. “Now the team is in place, and… this will be our biggest growth year.”

Here are a few highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Legends’ whitespace
“There are obviously the big guys like Nike and Under Armour and Adidas out there. But then there [were] these micro-brands popping up. And then there are some established athleisure wear brands like Lululemon, Vuori, Rhone. And I said, well, Vuori is more lifestyle yoga. Lulu is your wife’s brand that makes men’s products now — they’re like a yoga brand that’s trying to get into these sports. It was Rhone that we saw and we were like, that just looks like they’re trying to make a men’s version of Lulu. So there’s no real sportswear brand — like, owned by athletes, developed by athletes with the credibility there, the authenticity there.”

Why Hochstadt waited a few years before really growing the business
“I wanted to establish the brand, I wanted to build the right relationships with guys, I wanted to have the right internal team that knew what they were doing from a scaling perspective. You can lose a lot of money on paid advertising and you got to have the right team in place to execute that. So we spent a couple of years just building out the team, building out the products and building out the brand. Now the team is in place, and… this will be our biggest growth year.”

Mostly DTC with a few premium partnerships
“We’ve been, I would say 90% DTC. We’ve had these opportunities to do activations with the Nets at the Barclay Center. We had a pop-up there. That was our first offline activation. We’re selling in the Wynn hotels, we’re selling in Sofi, we’re selling to I think about 12 NBA teams and NFL teams — we’re their brand of choice. You have to wear Nike on court, that’s the sponsor of the league… But, these teams will buy from us for their travel gear [and] lifestyle gear. And then there’s a few of them that are buying currently for their retail shops in arena.”