Founded in 2011 by Hawaii native Steve Fountain, Lacer Headwear bridges the style gap between hip-hop culture and athleticism with their innovative, yet simplistic design. Lacer’s hats are intended for those looking for something a little more out of the box than a traditional baseball cap. The basic design concept begins with the baseball hat frame, but integrates the craftsmanship of sneakers; colored laces and emblems put a personal and creative touch that not only demonstrates individuality of the wearer but indirectly showcases a deep appreciation of urban culture’s affinity for footwear. Whether it’s to promote your dedication to a particular sports team or to find perfectly paired headgear to complement your favorite kicks, Fountain’s design model bring full circle the street appreciation for fashion, literally from head to toe. Marketing his privately owned business began as a challenge for Lacer’s founder, who had done everything from trade shows, making local connections to their target market, working in product placement, and beginning to establish an Internet presence for the brand. As an entrepreneur trying to get Lacer Headwear recognized by the right people, Fountain knew he had to branch out in marketing to create bigger buzz, so he sought out celebrity endorsements that would generate the traffic his website needed in order to increase sales.
Lacer’s founder knew that the next step in their marketing would have to be through meaningful partnerships with well-established people who could sponsor and endorse his product. Fountain’s goal was for an endorsement to help Lacer Headwear “tie the brand in with [celebrity] marketing in order for it to kick start, build a trend, and drive sales.” The number one expectation in pairing with a celebrity endorser was to ultimately get Lacer hats on the heads of more people. In order to make this happen, the partnership would have to be with celebrities that have an influence in the relevant market of fashion, but also have an urban edge as to relate to their target customer. Lacer Headwear’s goal became to find a celebrity who would be the right fit; musicians, athletes or even socialites could all fit the bill as long as the individual could properly highlight the brand and create enough buzz on their own social media sites that would lead followers to Lacer Headwear’s website and online stores.
Lacer Headwear decided to partner with musician and producer Pretty Lights. Pretty Lights’ music is a blend of electronic, hip-hop, soul, and funk and reaches a wide audience across genres. With his major online presence on both Facebook and Twitter, Pretty Lights’ reach to Lacer’s target brand could bring forth a lot of attention for the headwear company. It was Lacer Headwear’s brand manager who first realized that Pretty Lights could bring brand awareness based off of his hip-hop inspired influence to his fans. Once the team reached out to Pretty Lights and introduced him to their products, they locked in the endorsement of a celebrity who genuinely thought their product was cool and would collaborate with them on bringing attention to the brand. The business deal was simple, Pretty Lights’ team would work with Lacer to produce an exclusive product for Pretty Lights to market on his social media, and sell on his website. Pretty Lights’ job was a simple one; he posted one picture of the exclusive Lacer Headwear hat on Facebook and the rest was up to his fans whether they were interested in the brand.
- Increased Sales: After Pretty Lights posted a picture of the Lacer Headwear cap, 150 pieces of the same hat were sold to his fans that would become customers to Fountain’s brand. Within two hours of being endorsed by this celebrity representative, Lacer Headwear sold out of the hat.
- Buzz and Awareness: Having a celebrity endorsement generated social media buzz, increased sales, and gained recognition and appreciation by creating new customers for the headwear brand. Traffic on the Lacer Headwear website doubled. People were exposed to a brand they otherwise may not have found, and comments, “likes,” and excessive more page views generated awareness of the brand.
While the endorsement of Pretty Lights generated buzz and sales for Lacer Headwear, Steve Fountain learned a lot from the partnership that will benefit his business and other businesses in future endorsement deals.
- 1. Be Realistic and Patient: Celebrity attention can bring a lot of focus toward a brand, but Fountain warns that it’s important not to dream too big; just getting your product on a celebrity sponsor doesn’t guarantee that your brand is going to become a household name and be sold in stores across America. Getting his hat on one celebrities head didn’t blow up the brand; as Fountain points out, unless your celebrity endorsers are as influential and big as someone like Jay-Z, it’s unlikely that buzz will be created right away. The idea that you would get a celebrity that big right out of the gate is slim to none, so be sure to market to other celebrities who have local, street, and Internet reach.
- 2. Use as Many Endorsements as You Can Get: One celebrity endorsement isn’t enough; Lacer Headwear knows they will have to continuously work to get his hats on the heads of more people by creating partnerships with more celebrities. While the Pretty Lights partnership was beneficial, it was short lived; companies must continuously be working to get as many people as they can to generate interest in their brand.
- 3. Be Sure Your Celebrity Endorsers Fit Your Brand: Fountain hopes to find celebrities in the future who can really endorse the idea of hip street wear in more than just one or two social media posts. Finding celebrities who have street credit and whose everyday look makes sense for the brand they’re looking to sell is key. This goes for all products and services being endorsed by celebrities; don’t seek out celebs who don’t speak to your customer and brand.
- 4. Lock in Future Customers: One of Lacer Headwear’s key takeaways from their partnership with Pretty Lights was to remember that while moving several pieces of merchandise is great, it’s locking in dedicated and long-term buyers that they strive for. A mistake Fountain identified was allowing their hat to be linked and sold through Pretty Lights website rather than their own. He sees it as a missed opportunity to have sold more than just the hat that Pretty Lights wore in his Facebook post. It was also a missed chance to lock in information from shoppers for email mailing lists and future site traffic. Using the celebrity’s website limited sales to only one item; in the future, Lacer will be sure to move the Internet traffic in their own direction so that shoppers can view all their company has to offer. It’s important for the celebrity to generate interest to their own sites, but there should be clear expectations set that your company’s website and stores will also be linked and promoted.