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What Do Zubaz And Under Armour Have In Common?


Zubaz, the  pajama-like pants favored by jocks and gym rats in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, are poised to make a comeback.

That’s right. You read it here first.

Zubaz were born in the fashion capitol of the world – Minneapolis. Back in the 1980’s two guys, Dan Stock and Bob Truax, who owned a gym frequented by lifters and body builders received inspiration from a couple of regulars who also were pro wrestlers. The Road Warriors found similar pants from a brand called “Everywhere” while working out at a Gold’s Gym in LA.

It seems lifters have multiple wardrobe issues due to their not so average builds. Pants are particularly problematic as most have tree-trunk thighs.

The pair began making Zubaz in a back room of their gym. All the regulars began clamoring for a pair – the gaudier, the better. As the Road Warriors traveled the wrestling circuit the Zubaz they sported gained attention.

The Miami Dolphins were introduced to Zubaz via tight end Dan Johnson, a local Minnesota guy. When Dan Marino, now an NFL Hall of Famer, saw them he knew he needed a pair. Soon Zubaz were seen on the sidelines of NFL teams across the country. This led to licensing deals with the NFL, the NBA and MLB.

Retailers we’re picking them up as well. First JCPenney got in the act. Soon others like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Foot Locker and The Sports Authority wanted a piece of the action.

The rest of the story about the rise and fall, and now the potential rise again of Zubaz is nearly identical to many brands. Stock and Truax did something really smart from the earliest days. They got their product on high-profile influencers including famous athletes. This gave their product exposure and credibility. Fast.

Ultimately this is the same model used by Kevin Plank as he launched Under Armour. Get the product on those at the top echelon of your target audience and let them be your brand ambassadors. Plank allegedly gave some of his earliest product to college and pro football players.

Zubaz didn’t use jocks only. They even enlisted a very young Claudia Schiffer to pose tastefully topless in Zubaz.

Now its time for Zubaz to take a page from Kevin Plank’s playbook. In Plank’s case Under Armour with one shirt for football for warm weather and evolved into all weather gear for any activity. The challenge for Zubaz is to determine what it is about their product that appeals to consumers. If fit is the key…then apply the same principles of fit to other products like shorts, shirts and lightweight outerwear. Or if comfort is the appeal, Zubaz should consider high-performance fabrics with moisture wicking, anti-microbial and UV protection.

I suspect Stock and Truax are on it…and I wish them well.

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