ESPN TAILORS LICENSING DEALS TO CLOTHING

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Walt Disney Co. is attempting to translate the equity of its ESPN brands into successful apparel products, inking a licensing deal with Pro Player and closing another with an unspecified company.

The Pro Player deal was negotiated by Disney Consumer Products, working in conjunction with ESPN Enterprises. Terms weren't disclosed.

Long before Disney purchased Capital Cities/ABC, ESPN was working on its own to extend its brand, licensing products like ESPN-branded videogames and music collections.

Pro Player's first ESPN apparel products will hit retail stores around June. The line encompass-es outerwear, polo shirts, T-shirts, knits, sweatshirts and fleece items.

The products will feature the logos of ESPN and ESPN2. Some will incorporate those logos into designs inspired by various sports, like a T-shirt featuring an image of an ESPN-branded baseball.

Pro Player also will market clothing incorporating ad slogans and signature catch phrases used by ESPN sportscasters.

'X GAMES' APPAREL

Another venue is ESPN programming; the company sees potential in apparel inspired by ESPN's "X Games," targeted at teens and Gen Xers.

"The reason we went after the license is that brands are hot at retail, but [the retail climate] has reached such a saturation point where buyers are now looking at alternative brands," said John Lachiusa, Pro Player's director of marketing and licensing.

Pro Player will support the products initially with in-store advertising and is talking with retailers about merchandising concepts. Mr. Lachiusa said the company eventually will use advertising.

It's possible ESPN will back the apparel with its own promotions.

Mr. Lachiusa said Pro Player will look to co-brand its ESPN apparel with the marks of pro sports leagues with which Pro Player has a license and that have

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