Reebok’s Remote Fashion Designers Are Outfitting MMA Stars

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Remote fashion designers helped design official UFC wear.

I’m a writer, not a fighter, but I’ll admit I love the theater of the combatants entering the ring for a big boxing or mixed martial arts bout.

The lights go out, the announcer booms his introduction, and then the fighter strides out, surrounded by an entourage, bopping his or her head to a fight song, and covered in customized warm-up gear.

This madness happens nowhere else in life. Check out Floyd Mayweather entering the ring with an entourage of clowns, Justin Bieber, and a live rapping Lil’ Wayne.

The spectacle has become such a part of the pre-fight ritual that the fighters take their appearance very seriously. Sportswear giant Reebok has realized this and used the fighters’ vanity to create some profitable relationships with them. They’ve even gone to the extreme of using remote fashion designers, connected by video conference, to help their clients find the perfect look.

It’s a video conferencing evolution we may all one day get to experience.

Winning the Sponsorship Battle

Reebok needs to use every trick it can produce to keep up with the leaders in the multi-billion dollar sports apparel market. It still ranks among the top ten in the global brand list, but it has lost $500 million in value since the turn of the decade and is worth around a tenth of Nike.

The quickest way to boost sales in the sports game is to get a big star to wear your designs. Relative newcomer Under Armour is almost 40 years younger than Reebok, but has seen its sales explode over the past five years since its leading brand ambassador, Steph Curry of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, has blossomed into a household name across the globe.

Steph Curry types don’t come along often, however, and Reebok recently lost out to Nike in the fight to be the official uniform provider to both the NFL and NBA, both billion-dollar deals. So, it has turned its attention to the fastest growing sport in the world: mixed martial arts. The blood and violence of the sport may limit its appeal somewhat, but the leading fighters, male and female, are becoming stars…and they know how to stage an entrance every bit as entertaining as the boxing crowd.

When your brand ambassadors take their pre-fight fashion that seriously, it’s probably a good idea to do everything you can to accommodate them.

Remote Fashion Designers Create Pre-Fight Apparel

One of Reebok’s new ambassadors is UFC Bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes. The company paid her a bonus of $40,000 after she retained her title in September, and has worked closely with her to design a personalized uniform as well as pre-fight gear. As splashy as those pre-fight entrances are, however, the life of a fighter is a spartan and regimented one, leaving little time to pick out clothing.

So, Reebok left Nunes to her training regime and used video conferencing to keep her in the design loop. It’s easy to see why the remote approach would appeal to an athlete. Rather than interrupting their training in the lead-up to a fight by attending a corporate meeting, or having a bunch of Reebok reps descend on the training facility, an athlete can instead just take a video call on their smartphone during a scheduled downtime.

This method still allows the brand and its ambassador to exchange ideas visually, and share potential logo designs through the standard file sharing function that most good video calling platforms now feature. Plus, by adding a laptop and an affordable webcam, the whole meeting can be conducted in glorious high definition.

Here’s a look at some of the apparel Reebok designed for their deal with the UFC, including Nunes’ lioness t-shirt:

You may never get to make the kind of entrance that boxers and MMA fighters make, but if Reebok is willing to share its video calling design concept with the buying public, you could one day create workout wear every bit as unique.

Custom Fashion by Video Conference

The end goal for all this effort to accommodate sports stars is to get the public to fork over their money for gear that resembles the outfits their heroes wear–sports merchandise is worth $13 billion a year in the U.S. So why can’t they indulge us a little and open a video hotline for those who want more than just a replica jersey?

By placing a video portal in their online shop, perhaps something like the WebRTC video portals for online retailers we talked about back in March, Reebok staff could meet customers face-to-face to go over a unique vision. To deal with large-scale sales, there would have to be a limited selection of styles and cuts, but graphics and color scheme choices could be almost limitless.

In theory, every step Reebok’s designers went through with Amanda Nunes could be replicated using the same video calling technology. There would be a premium charge for the service, of course, but in return, fans would get their own faces, designs, and names on the outfit, and they’d get to talk to a real person about putting it all together.

If you look the part, you’re going to feel the part. With pro sports as their inspiration, it may only be a matter of time before people start designed much of their clothes online in collaboration with various brands. Virtual fitting rooms are already letting brides collaborate with wedding dress boutiques. Soon all of our outfits may get the custom treatment.

Image Source: Flickr CC User Antonio Fucito

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