If you are anything like me, you like to wear clothes. Well, most of the time anyway. That’s the abridged version as to why we started MinnCentric apparel. The longer, more drawn out version involves grousing about prices of t-shirts. Like the majority of awesome ideas, this one also started at a bar. My business partner, Jim Martin, and I were doing 12 ounce arm curls in sets of ten at a local watering hole. He had just completed some shopping at the mall for his wife, purchasing two t-shirts at a chain store that put a sizeable gouge in his wallet.
Jim: Man, I just spent $80 on two t-shirts at a store in the mall that is known for selling bras with angel wings on them! (Drinks beer.)
Me: That’s the worst thing I have ever heard of. (Drinks beer.) Ever. (Drinks beer.)
Jim: Right? (Drinks beer.)
Me: (Drinks beer.)
Jim: We should get into that racket. (Drinks beer.)
After several more cold ones, we jotted down a general outline of what we would want in sports-themed shirts. We wanted to offer unique designs that were not being represented on the market. We wanted fans to have more creative options to support one of their favorite players without having to resort to a ‘shirsey’. We wanted our shirts to be of a higher quality. Most of all, we wanted to be able to price them for $20 or less.
We called the concept “sports bar casual” apparel – the idea that you could wear these shirts to any sports bar or game and not only be comfy as hell, but that it would be a conversation starter as people at the bars or games would see you in your shirt and immediately ask where you got it.
Now, with the proper amount of alcohol lubricant in us to kick-start the creativity, we started to brainstorm some taglines. After several aborted attempts (ex. “Delmon Young is Super Good in the Outfield”), Jim came up with our initial line: Thome Is My Homey.
While we loved the idea and the design, we had to ask ourselves, how would we create a market for these shirts?
I had been blogging about the Minnesota Twins on both my personal blog, Over the Baggy, and more recently with the Star Tribune’s TwinsCentric group so I was confident it would be easy to reach the die-hard fans, however I wasn’t so sure we could wrangle in the casual fans. When the Thome shirts arrived back from the printers, we handed out a few to friends and family, encouraging them to wear the shirts to the Twins games (remember, this was 2010 and people were clawing other people to get into Target Field) and tell folks who asked where to find them.
It was at the next home game that wound up having the most genius guerrilla marketing strategy that was completely unplanned.
It started off with Jim’s wife, Jessica, having her family’s seats which were right behind the visiting dugout and positioned so that if there were any side shots of a right-handed batter, Jessica – and her t-shirt – would be prominently featured in the shot:
Jessica, a marketer herself by trade, scribbled down an ad hoc sign which had our website and would occasionally flash that to the camera. Even before the game ended, orders started to pour in.
While Jessica attacked the cameras during the game, my cousin Will – whose sister Heidi did the graphic design for several of our shirts – unbeknownst to us at the time, went guerrilla on the post-game show. The Fox Sports North post-game broadcasts at Target Field, typically featuring Anthony Lapanta and former Twin Tim Laudner, are live and show a crowd shot of fans on the Plaza. My ingenious cousin grabbed his shirt, stood in the middle behind Lapanta and Laudner and held it up so it was well displayed:
When the game ended, the orders continued to pour in, along with several emails lauding us for our brilliant marketing strategy in addition to a mention of it on KFAN’s Dan Barriero Show the next day. We knew then that the shirts were going to be a hit.
And thanks to the ever-increasing social world we live in, we have been able to interact with fans through our Facebook page and Twitter, getting input from potential customers on our prototype designs. We encourage the dialogue because, after all, these shirts are for the fans, not for us. In exchange for the participation, we like to giveaway shirts as a show of our gratitude. (If you are not following us now, I highly recommend you start doing so.)
Since that time in 2010, the Thome Is My Homey begat Cuddy Is My Buddy which lead to Punto Plays Dirty and I Love Koobs and so on and so on and so on. Since that first model of shirt, we have improved the quality of our offerings, switching to a ridiculously comfortable triblend fabric, and have expanded into some nostalgic moments (i.e. Game Six and The Killer shirts) as well as dabbling into football (Sunday Funday) and soon hockey (St Paul Fight Club).
We still stick to our original mission that was written down on the beer-soaked cocktail napkin almost three years ago now. We will continue to pump out creative designs and keep them from ever encroaching on the $40 mark. Your money is meant for beer, not for overpriced tee shirts.
Feel free to contact us with your thoughts, ideas or concerns!
All the best,
Parker & Jim