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New Era up for hard graft in India

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MUMBAI: Caps! They are functional and shield you from the heat on sunny days. But that’s not what caps are all for anymore. They seem to have become a part of the culture where they are worn more as a fashion accessory rather than for their functionality.

If you are a part of the modern cult, chances are you would have heard about headwear company, New Era. Founded in 1920, the company is headquartered in Buffalo, New York, and has over 500 different exclusive licences in its portfolio. The company is solely into manufacturing caps, but different types of it. New Era licenced products include New York Yankees, Major League Baseball, Big Bash League, NBA, NFL, Golf, USA Soccer, Los Angeles Dodgers, Manchester United among other sports and teams.

Although the company is huge in international markets, it launched in India only in 2016, with Bollywood actor Siddharth Malhotra, via an exclusive tie-up with e-commerce platforms Jabong and Myntra to sell the caps. The company wants to establish itself as the number one headwear brand in India and make sure that headwear is a product of choice for Indians that it currently isn't.

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Today, Indian cricketers, A-listers, Bollywood celebrities and influencers, everyone can be seen donning one of their caps. New Era plans to stay on top of Indian consumer’s minds and on top of players' heads across the globe.

The company recently announced a licensing deal with Indian cricketer Virat Kohli. The Signature Headwear collection, designed and conceptualised by Virat Kohli, will be manufactured, marketed and distributed globally by New Era.

With this deal, Kohli has become the company’s first collaborator in Indian market. New Era sales director for EMEA John Casey says the company was looking for someone in India who resonates with the brand’s energy, vitality and someone who can inspire young consumers and their search ended on Virat Kohli as he is regarded as the most famous cricketer in a country where cricket is almost a religion.

Although the company has signed Virat to create signature collection for now, they will be looking to tie up with other cricketers as well. Casey says, “We are starting with Virat but we are working with Virat’s agency (Cornerstone Sport) and they have a portfolio of players. As we establish our base in India, we would get more cricketers and influencers on board.”

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Kohli launched his collection branded with the One8 (his fitness wear company) and V (his initial) logos but New Era wants to be locally relevant in India by introducing products that work for the brand internationally such as the baseball, basketball and the NFL. All of the company’s products for India and neighbouring counties are currently manufactured in Bangladesh.

In India, wearing caps and hats as a fashion accessory is picking up as a trend once again. Though the headwear sector in India already has a lot of established players including Hrithik Roshan’s HRX caps, Adidas caps, Nike, Reebok, Puma, none of them are into creating caps exclusively. Caps is a part of their bigger businesses. Now, this may work for the brand New Era in India or against it.

New Era will promote its new collection with Kohli only on digital platforms. Casey does not see any merit in doing traditional media for any of its communication as that’s not the sort of audience they are looking at. He adds that the company does not want to target the masses but people who are interested in sports and popular culture. For this, the headwear firm will also invest in influencer marketing on social media platforms Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram by creating sponsored content.

Purchasing caps is usually more of a touch and feel category, and consumers usually like to see the product, its fit and texture in person before they decide to buy it. Since New Era is currently only available on e-commerce platforms, it tends to lose some of its potential buyers. But the company’s sales director Casey assures that they will be launching their products in brick and mortar stores before 2020. He adds, “We want to be present in sports stores, in department stores and maybe have our own store as well.”

On the one hand, caps from Nike are priced anything between Rs 600-Rs 1500, Adidas between Rs 999-Rs 2000, HRX between Rs 699-Rs 999. On the other hand, New Era caps start from Rs 1200 and go all the way up to Rs 3200. Since their caps are priced at a higher range than what other caps are available for, affordability will be a huge issue for consumers in India. But then again, the company is targeting the group that wants to adapt and be a part of international fashion and popular and sports culture, which will come at a price.

For New Era to become a success story in India, a lot of effort, communication and visibility will be needed. The brand is up for the challenge.

Also Read :

Kohli brand driving on the up

Pepe Jeans launches India centric ad with Siddharth Malhotra

Pepperfry bets big on digital

The influence of influencer marketing

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