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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Overtime’s Pop-Up Showcases Commerce Potential for Digital Brands

Photo credit: Overtime

In a three-day event that fused hoops, apparel and art, Overtime expanded its merchandise repertoire with The Pull Up: Overtime Basketball Pop-Up, offering fans a chance to purchase Overtime gear in a retail setting.

Attendees also had the opportunity to meet special guests, win prizes and check out work from industry-leading photographers and artists.

“Of all the sports that people enjoy, basketball is the one right now that’s really leading culture and has the most association with music and sneakers,” said Overtime founder and CEO Dan Porter. “We wanted to go back into that sense of New York street courts and that celebration of basketball. We love hoops — it’s part of who we are.”

The event was held at 368 Broadway in New York and introduced brand-new merchandise, featuring collaborations with sports personality Rachel DeMita, sneaker artist Sierato, and Japanese streetwear brand Suicoke. Featured photographers included Cassy Athena, Nicole Sweet, Michael Eng, Cameron Look, Dontae Putmon, Johnnie Izquierdo and Nia Simone.

Overtime joins brands like Barstool Sports, Bleacher Report and The Ringer as sports companies that have embraced merchandise as a new revenue stream, which stems from a shift in the mindset of the modern sports fan, according to Porter.

READ MORE: Overtime: A Sports Network for the Next Generation 

“The way I think about it — because I’m not a millennial or Gen Z — I come from a world growing up of very hard borders and lines, so as soon as whistle blows it wasn’t sports anymore,” Porter said. “But you look at the NBA now, and they’re showing people walk into the tunnel like a fashion show. Our audience is more expansive than it ever was, so they’re not thinking about it like culture and basketball. It’s just, ‘This is dope stuff I enjoy,’ and it all feels the same to them.”

Selling merchandise hasn’t been Overtime’s primary goal, however. Rather, Porter introduced the idea for the pop-up shop as another way to connect with the community.

“For us, it’s not just about commerce and apparel and merchandise,” he said. “It’s about pushing these activities and interacting with our fans IRL.”

Porter’s vision for the pop-up was brought to life by director of commerce Daniel Ortiz and design director Tishon Woolcock.

“It’s really an effort to bring our brand to life and make sure that what we reflect in our voice and our channels and our community, that it’s very apparent here,” Ortiz said. “It all just came together in the end, and it’s so great to see people coming in and being able to appreciate the space the moment they walk in, and being able to see our content and see everything tied together.”

The unique elements of the pop-up were created with a specific purpose in mind, according to Ortiz.

“Every single detail that you see here, whether it’s the mural that depicts basketball players, to our merch display that’s designed to look like a basketball locker room, to the neon hoop — basically, every single aspect of it is really reflecting the culture of basketball,” he said.

The overall vibe played into to a sense of relatability, something that Overtime has strived to create since its beginning.

“The reactions that we’ve been getting — people coming from all over the place, coming in and getting to interact with our people — you really get a sense, in person, of how strong of a community it is,” Ortiz said. “It’s that kind of vibe. We’re not intimidating… We always say that we want every kid to feel like they can be on Overtime, and I think we’ve accomplished that with this space, that they can come in and just be a part of our environment.”

That feeling of familiarity has cultivated a dedicated following, according to Ortiz.

“Kids don’t want to wear just anything,” he said. “Our audience wants to represent Overtime, and that’s what it comes down to. I think that speaks a lot to the brand, and it speaks a lot to what our audience values and what they are looking for in a brand. It comes down to authenticity, and it comes down to community.”

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“People like that they can participate, and they might be featured, so for us, it wasn’t like we thought, ‘We should get into commerce,’” Porter added. “It was more like we started making stuff, and athletes were wearing it, and kids were asking for it. It felt native and organic. For the first year we made merchandise, we didn’t even sell it. That created a demand, and we ended up having a big collection, so it’s fun to give people a chance to buy it.”

Beyond the merchandise, the event included a wall of photography featuring an array of basketball players, from NBA stars to kids in the Philippines. In curating the design, Woolcock placed a particular emphasis on Overtime’s roots.

“The fact that we started in the basketball community, in the New York City basketball scene — it was really important for us to celebrate that and highlight that,” he said. “That’s why we wanted to work with photographers who have relationships with the players. That’s how you get to tell the stories of the players and not just focus on their stats and that stuff, because they’re people too.”

He achieved that sense of storytelling by selecting art and photography that highlighted players off the court.

“Yeah, it’s about the game, it’s about the score, but there are people behind all that, you know?” Woolcock said. “That’s what’s important to us as a company, is to really celebrate that.”

In order to promote the event, Overtime focused its efforts on social media, but took advantage of some more old-school methods, as well.

“Social media has been the most effective channel for us, and we’ve been true to that, but we’ve also done the traditional passing out flyers, and testing out different ways of promoting,” Ortiz said. “When you’re testing out things like this for the first time, you have to do things differently, but also use the channels that have always worked. We’ve done everything.”

The shop featured appearances from some of Overtime’s biggest names, like Laurence Marsach (known as Overtime Larry) and DeMita, both of whom helped in promoting the event.

READ MORE: How Laurence Marsach Became Overtime’s Star Personality

“We made flyers, and I was going to different high schools, passing them out,” Marsach said. “I was just going around the block, out to Times Square, like, ‘Yo, you’ve got to pull up to the pop-up shop.’

“It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, it’s aesthetically really cool,” he added. “It’s a good vibe overall, and I know people are appreciating it.”

The open layout of the space lent itself to socializing, while artwork and Overtime-branded backdrops provided fans with photo opportunities.

“It’s cool to see the whole community come together, and obviously the fans being here is really fun,” said DeMita. “You don’t always get to meet your fans in a casual environment, so it’s super fun.”

The environment may have felt laid-back, but the pop-up shop was no small production. From in-house custom sneaker designs by Sierato, to an invite-only “Fortnite” tournament, to an appearance by NBA player Danny Green, Overtime’s first foray into the retail pop-up realm was a substantial undertaking.

“We’re in the go-big-or-go-home business,” Porter said. “It’s big, it’s a risk, and it’s exciting.”

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