Over the years, fashion and design have become an increasingly big part of sports. Whether we’re discussing your favorite team’s logo, every league’s set of jerseys, or which shoes athletes are wearing, branding has always had a place in the world of sports. Accordingly, it’s not a surprise that more leagues are investing additional resources into that lane.
Across professional sports teams and leagues who are looking for ways to make their brands more popular; the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes are leading this revolution. In recent months, the Western Conference competitor has found themselves at the branding vanguard in their efforts to not only highlight their player’s fashion taste and personality on social media but make merchandise that tells the story of their home state. And for that, the Coyotes turned to no other than Dennis Calvero, the designer of their new streetwear collection.
Calvero, a proud Los Angeles, CA native, is an experienced streetwear designer who has thrived in the world of fashion, ranging between launching and selling brands such as Crooks & Castles and, at one point, was the Design Director of Mark Ecko Enterprises. Alongside being a huge sports fan, Calvero has a great understanding of how branding in sports works, and that’s regardless of a team’s success.
ONE37pm had the chance to connect with Calvero to discuss the Coyotes’ new collection, the evolution of branding in sports, and much more!
ONE37pm: When thinking about this opportunity to design the Coyotes’ new collection, what made it unique?
Calvero: There were a couple of reasons why. After I sold Crooks & Castles, I’d been consulting for a few brands, mainly in the gaming and fashion industries. But then my guy Will Headings connected me with the Meruelo’s (ownership family of the Coyotes), and they began telling me about the properties they owned and their vision.
Working in sports is not entirely new to me as I’ve done stuff through Crooks and Castles with the NBA for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Clippers and MLB for the [Los Angeles] Dodgers, but I had never directly worked with a team on anything solely for their brand. And at this point in my career, it made for an exciting opportunity. Plus, I’ve always liked the teams out of Arizona (smiles).
ONE37pm: As sports fans, we have a deep understanding of branding through jerseys, logos, etc. but it hasn’t resonated with us as much with the NHL. Can the league change that?
Calvero: They definitely can. Even though here in America, most sports fans aren’t used to that with the NHL, I was able to see it up close in Montreal, CA, because of my Crooks & Castles partners that were based up there and love hockey. I’ve met plenty of hockey players who embraced my brand and style of fashion, and whenever we speak more about it, they simply express their love for fashion and how they explore more of it due to their success.
When it’s all said and done, some hockey players see what NBA and NFL players can do about showing off their drip, and they love it. So this is the right time for the NHL to embrace that, and they’re beginning to all across the board.
ONE37pm: Outside of whatever happens on the court, field, or ice, today’s era of sports branding places a great emphasis on capturing the spirit of their hometown and state. What has inspired that change?
Calvero: It’s simply a matter of recognizing where you’re from and making the pieces everyday people could wear when they feel like it. Granted, in some instances, like with me here in Arizona, the weather is consistently the same because it’s hot [laughs], but you think beyond that. I began looking at logos and what was happening all around and found deeper meanings to things that helped me create the pieces in this collection.
ONE37pm: So along with that, is it easier these days to create those pieces regardless of the team’s success? Because some fans won’t wear any kind of merchandise if the team isn’t good [laughs].
Calvero: That’s a good question. While everything you said is true, I always focused on making the consumer attracted to the piece because of what it is. That’s the difference. If someone sees a work of mine and it looks good, there’s a chance they won’t care about that team, and their success or failure, because if it looks good to them, that’s all that matters.
The same can be said for teams that the public isn’t familiar with too. In the end, successful branding will work regardless of what happens with the players.