How DTC Brand Cuts Clothing Became the Breakout Hit for Players in the NBA ‘Bubble’

For Cuts Clothing—a maker of T-shirts, polos and sweatshirts—the bubble created by the National Basketball Association in Orlando for the league’s playoffs proved to be the ideal environment for the brand to spread the gospel about the quality of its clothing.

Heading into the tournament, the likes of Pat Connaughton of the Milwaukee Bucks and C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers were already fans of the direct-to-consumer retailer, according to Steven Borrelli, the founder and CEO of Cuts.

“It really just blossomed from those initial guys,” Borrelli said. “The nature of it, where they are not at home and they don’t have their full closets, Cuts became a real necessity more than just a want. And we were [able] to execute on that for them.”

By the time the L.A. Lakers were crowned champions, dozens of players were wearing and being photographed in Cuts’ signature shirts and face masks, Borrelli said. That included Andre Iguodala, Bam Adebayo and Duncan Robinson, all of the Miami Heat, which played against the Lakers for the NBA title.

Fortuitously, the brand laid the groundwork by cultivating relationships with players like Connaughton and McCollum over the last couple of years.

While hanging out in McCollum’s hotel room, a package from Cuts caught the eye of his teammate Damian Lillard, sparking a conversation about the brand and the quality of the clothing.

After a series of DMs between the two players and Cuts, it wasn’t long before Lillard too was donning the company’s duds, wearing one of the brand’s drop-cut shirts to his first playoff game with the Lakers.

“Especially in the beginning when all the teams—not just the playoff teams—were there, there was only so much space at Walt Disney,” Borrelli said. After finishing games, he added that athletes would either grab a coffee, go to a barbershop or eat at one of the few restaurants available. And because they were away from home without their families, players had a lot of spare time to spend with teammates, swapping stories and fashion tips.

In addition to the close proximity of players, it helped that the weather in Orlando was hot, and players were going to the gym or jumping on buses to travel between points on the Disney campus, creating a climate in which fitted, minimalist casual wear such as Cuts’ shirts made more sense than suits.

Sending the products was a bit of a logistical challenge the brand had to navigate, according to Borrelli. At one point players were collectively receiving hundreds of packages a day that had to be sanitized before anyone could get their hands on them.

“They did start getting so many packages that we had to make friends with the head of shipping at the NBA bubble,” Borrelli said. “So it was really important for us to get the contact for the NBA bubble so it could actually pass inspection instead of getting rejected.”

That meant Cuts had to get itself on a list of approved brands that were allowed to ship to the NBA’s bubble. To streamline the process, though, there were was only one shipping address for the 22 NBA teams initially sequestered in three Disney World hotels.

“As long as we had their room number—because a lot of brands were just sending [packages] there—we were able to get them the shirt,” Borrelli said. “The players kind of had to kind of clear it ahead of time … and then they would request the package. If they didn’t ask for it, then it wouldn’t be received.”

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