Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A 'Pound 4 Pound' Bout for Understanding

Last week, I told you a little about Pound 4 Pound Apparel, the licensing and marketing company run by two childhood friends from Willowick.

Scott Swerbinsky and Jason Green design apparel with professional boxers in an attempt to, of course, sell the gear but also to enhance the brand of the individual fighter. That’s important because boxing, while not dead, is far off the radar for many sports fans fixated on the NFL, NBA and MLB.

One of the more interesting elements of the story, I thought, is the process Swerbinsky and Green sometimes have to go through to explain what it is they do and convince a fighter why he should get on board. It turns out, public relations personnel and managers are often the biggest obstacles they face in trying to add a client to their roster. The boxers often hear the proposition of shirts and hats featuring their own nicknames and logos, and they immediately envision teens and twenty-somethings lining up to buy the cool garment they saw that boxer wear on his way to the ring on ESPN Friday Night Fights. The manager, on the other hand, wonders why they would waste their time with the small company when bigger ones like Everlast might already be crafting shorts or gloves for the same fighter.

“One of the biggest hurdles we run into is we’ll talk to certain guys and think everything looks good, but they’ll say, ‘I need you to talk to so-and-so,’ and that person is a hassle to get a hold of,” Swerbinsky said. “It’s jumping through some hoops: Them not having time because of so many other guys they deal with, maybe not understanding exactly what we’re trying to do. Sometimes, we get stuck at a crossroads.”

Added Green: “They have a promoter, a manager, a finance guy ... 15 different people you have to try to get through before you get to them. Once you talk to them, nine times out 10, they’re interested and they like the idea. It’s a big status symbol to have their own line of T-shirts other people can wear and they can wear to the ring and to the weigh-in, anytime they’re interviewed on ESPN or HBO or Showtime. The people blocking them from you sometimes don’t quite grasp. They don’t see that we could actually be making the fighter money, not only developing them and getting them more publicity and marketing attention, but making them some money.”

Their first client, Ronald Hearns — the son of Thomas “Hitman” Hearns — was a boxer Green and Swerbinsky thought they would have trouble signing until fighter himself called Pound 4 Pound, saying the would deal with them directly because he was so enthused about the idea. Now that the company is four clients in and counting, they have names and figures to ensure future signings. If they continue their winning ways, the fighters can earn checks in the thousands throughout the year, per the Pound 4 Pound agreement, simply for wearing a shirt in public they helped design.

Not bad for a “T-shirt” company.

-- Brandon C. Baker

Photo courtesy of Pound 4 Pound Apparel

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