An Athletic Fit

Devotees of CrossFit get pumped for well-made, stylish branded apparel.

Dave Quigley was looking for a new gym. Gina Tacconi-Moore was looking for a decorator to handle the branded apparel needs of her Massachusetts business, CrossFit Lowell. So, when Tacconi-Moore walked into Noreast Custom Apparel a few years ago, it was something like serendipity. Not only did Quigley find the perfect place to work out, but he’s been able to leverage that initial meeting into a lucrative niche business. “CrossFit gym owners are fun people to work with,” Quigley says. “It’s been an easy relationship to build upon.”

Product PicksFor the uninitiated, CrossFit is a trendy fitness regimen that focuses on intense daily training and measurable results. Owners refer to their facilities as “boxes,” rather than gyms. The brand has attracted a fiercely devoted following, and even inspired an international competition. The CrossFit Games, created in 2007 and sponsored by Reebok, has top CrossFit athletes perform a series of mystery challenges to measure their physical fitness. For many, CrossFit is more sport than gym. “Many folks take a lot of pride in being a CrossFitter,” says Emily Yates, owner of CrossFit Connex in Madison, WI. Branded apparel is a way to show off that pride, she adds: “Your box is your team, and wearing your team colors is part of being on that team.”

CrossFit gym owners tend to favor high-end, retail-inspired looks to market their businesses and give out at events. That’s part of the appeal of working with this niche, according to Quigley. “You know the clothes you decorate aren’t going to turn into a rag after events,” he epxlains. “CrossFitters love their shirts, which is good for us.”

But, be forewarned – to mine this rich market, you can’t just slap a logo on any old boxy T-shirt. It’s important to focus on fit, quality and comfort. T-shirts and tanks in soft tri-blends and burnouts – Quigley and many others prefer styles from Next Level Apparel (asi/73867) – are often favored by the athletes. Other popular items include hoodies and headbands. “We want something that is comfortable to wear inside and outside of the gym, is flattering for the athletic body and has great durability,” says Brian Jaffe, co-owner of Cave CrossFit in Los Angeles.

Sizing for orders should be specific, and never unisex, Quigley says. “It’s almost never a universal size. That’s not even remotely close to an option,” he adds. Yates, for example, says she had to stop offering branded pants and shorts because the fit was “really wacky” for her female clientele. The desire for well-fitted, quality workout garments has led a number of specialty athletic apparel companies to court CrossFitters, like Boston-based Via Privé (www.viaprive.com), which even has a section on its website where CrossFit gym owners can customize shorts, tops and other items to market their business.

When it comes to design, it’s all about custom looks, says Tom Van, owner of RXD Screenprinting, which runs an e-commerce site, www.affiliatetoathlete.com, which markets exclusively to CrossFit gym owners. “It’s not cookie-cutter,” says Van, whose shop produces bold slogans and large logos for its CrossFit clients. “The typical clip art or revision art isn’t necessarily good enough. They are a very specific-minded group of individuals who know what they want.”

Yates agrees. “Our goal is always to have designs that stand out,” she says. “We usually keep our apparel pretty simple, and easy to read, but definitely have an element of grit to it.”

You don’t have to be a CrossFitter to sell apparel to CrossFit affiliates, but it certainly gives you an edge, says Van. “If there’s one thing you should do to target this market, it’s to get off the couch, and go to a gym and work out,” he adds.