I'm not really into message tees or logos. I have some, sure, but they're relegated to my workout wardrobe. Still, if I wore a daily uniform of tee and jeans, it would make perfect sense to use the medium as a dry erase board of my cultural preferences, sense of humor, and oh, you know, maybe my grasp of a little thing called irony. In fact, I just had a vision of the future in which your t-shirt automatically updates to whatever your last Twitter/Facebook update was. Seriously, can that really be that far away? [Hold, please, while I go place a call to a copyright lawyer. . . and, I'm back.]
The point is, I get it, even if I don't do it. And in the case of The 52, the medium is married to another thing I think I get, but don't really do: gaming. (My relationship with videogames pretty much ended with Super Mario Bros. The first edition.) The brand, launching on Friday Feb 26 at Hipbone Studio is aimed specifically at the gamer set, but not in the same way there have been Nintendo sneakers and Pac-Man earrings. Here's how founder Brian Burke explains it: "Major apparel lines like Volcom, Nike, Obey, Adidas, Tapout, etc. have supported the sporting/action sport industry for years but there is a viable, highly active and competitive culture that has been missed until now. I'm speaking of the multi-billion dollar video game industry. Sure there has been plenty of t-shirts produced with Pac Man, Space Invaders and other license video game images but no one is really targeting a cool 'life-style.' I have been in the retail apparel/graphic design industry for 15 years and I have been in the video game industry for five years. With my combined experience I have created The 52 to give an edgy, cool and rock 'n' roll feel to the video game culture.... Many people are 'gamers' these days but are not willing to wear video game apparel because they would feel awkward. With The 52, gamers around the world can feel cool supporting the video game culture."
So all that remains is whether gamers deem these shirts cool:
MERCURY: Are there plans to expand the line beyond t-shirts? If so, what direction(s) do you anticipate going?
BRIAN BURKE: We plan on developing much more than just t-shirts such as zip hooded sweatshirts, long sleeve thermals, bandanas, as well as expanding on the girls category.
There's nothing about the shirt design (other than the insider date reference) that reads "gamer" to me. [According to The 52's web site, 1952 was the year the first graphical display computer videogame came out.] How do you plan on directing the marketing of the brand to that crowd?
I believe that being subtle about how we incorporate gaming images into our designs is key. At first glance we want people to see our product for its design and appeal. Then, as they look closer at the design they will see a phrase like "Gamers for Life" or they will see that the eagle is holding a video game controller. Marketing is one of the most important if not THE most important tool in being successful in this industry. We have plenty of aggressive marketing plans up our sleeves that will surely gain attention. For example, most major AAA video game titles being released will have a midnight release at many of the video game retailers. Often times there will be lines of people waiting several hours before midnight to get their copy. What we will do is partner up with the retailer, and setup The 52 at their location the night of the event. We will set up a game system, host a tournament and/or play video games with the waiting gamers. This gives us good mindshare with both the retailer and the gamers. Some restaurants and bars are now featuring video game systems for their customers to play during late night menu promotions/happy hours which gives The 52 prime opportunity to go in and host a cool event and gain further exposure. The beauty about being a "gamer" clothing line is for every activity like NFL, NBA, NHL, boxing, golf, bowling, skateboarding, snowboarding MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), rock shows, hiphop shows, etc. there is a videogame associated with it. The 52 has a limitless opportunity to participate in any of these events. We are also in the process of sending out our press release to major video game magazines, game retailers and both online and television media. I feel we have a very solid marketing model in place that also includes some SECRET viral marking plans that will be sure to let you know about later.
What is the tie-in between a rock theme and gaming? Seems like there are a large number of games that have a more hiphop vibe, etc. Why choose that genre?
Actually, the rock theme is a pretty substantial presence in the video game industry. Games like Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Gears of War, SKATE, Tony Hawk, Madden NFL and Modern Warfare, feature great rock soundtracks, just to name a few.
The "rock 'n' roll" term, that people use, is a term used to describe something that is very exciting, edgy and cool. The 52 is a clothing line that welcomes and supports every genre in the video game industry.