by Martin Schlegel
“It’s amazing to me that all you have to do to make money is take a shirt and slap a logo on it,” my father said.
I was shopping for new cleats at Dick’s Sporting Goods, and he was expressing his distaste for Under Armour. He’d complain that several companies make identical items, but Under Armour was still the most popular.
It could’ve been that Under Armour and Dick’s Sporting Goods were partners, or that its popularity was a mere result of a still-increasing demand among consumers. An athlete’s need to look good while playing a sport or hitting the gym is a force in sports marketing.
As a 12-year-old, I did everything I could to look good while playing in Little League. The cleats I wore came with little plastic pieces to insert into the shoes’ sides and the flaps that velcroed over their laces. Major League Baseball logos were included, one for every team.
I was free to change them out as often as my heart desired. My left foot would always sport the Minnesota Twin’s logo on a blue plastic piece, and on the days our games lined up, their competition would be represented on my right.
That year, I was named an all-star. I did put in extra work to get better, but I gave credit to the cleats.
It was similar to the movie “Like Mike,” a story about a foster child who winds up being an NBA superstar after he starts wearing what are supposedly Michael Jordan’s used basketball sneakers. I was as confident while wearing my cleats as the main character.
Football head coach Steve Laqua summarized wearing athletic accessories by reciting what an old teammate once said to him.
“Look good, feel good, play good,” he said.
Although Laqua said he never was and still isn’t a “flashy guy.” He sees the benefit of letting his players wear what they want. If the players want to wear a headband or special socks it is allowed as long as the players realize that game day is more important.
“If you have a culture that is so suffocating on the little things that really don’t matter, it really sucks the life out of the internal drive of people,” he said.
Every player follows certain traditions. The football team grows mustaches during the week leading up to the matchup against Bemidji State.
Senior Ngijol Songolo said his high school basketball team started a tradition similar to the mustaches.
“The class before us got crazy mohawks and designs in their hair for the state championship,” he said. “The next year my class carried that on.”
They did it because it was the state championship and they knew they were on TV.
Songolo said the MSUM basketball team doesn’t have any traditions, but everybody does follow a routine. Before home games, players go out to eat at Noodles & Company or Qdoba.
Studies done by Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University professor Adam D. Galinsky said that embodied cognition is the reason people associate certain clothing items to confidence. “We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts,” Galinsky said in a New York Times story. “Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear.”
The conclusion of the study is that people take on new-found confidence when they wear clothes with which they have strong, positive connotations. For example, putting on a doctor’s coat makes someone more attentive. For athletes, putting on their favorite shoes or arm bands helps them claim a more competitive edge.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how many athletes approach gaming fashion similarly, from Little League, to the big leagues.
These days, I wear a big black arm band on my left forearm and my Under Armour sliders every game. I never wash them after a win. When the baseball team’s on a winning streak, the smell gets unbearable.
It’s worth it.