When England’s cricketers take to the field this year, they will be wearing kits made by a UK business that is barely seven years old. That company, Castore — founded by two brothers from Liverpool — is betting that the sport can help its push to become a global brand.
Castore, which styles itself as the “aspirational premium alternative” to the world’s biggest sportswear brands, is increasing its expansion into elite sport by seeking partnerships with teams overlooked by global names such as Adidas, Nike and Puma.
The brand’s wings logo can be seen on football shirts in the English Premier League through deals with teams such as Newcastle United and Wolverhampton Wanderers. It is visible in Formula One motor racing, courtesy of a partnership with McLaren. The tie-ins give the brand a platform in two of the world’s most globally watched sports.
The partnership with Newcastle came ahead of the club’s £305mn takeover in October by a Saudi Arabian-led consortium, which gives Castore exposure in the Middle East.
Castore says its sales for the year to the end of January 2022 exceeded £100mn for the first time, more than double the figure for the previous 12 months.
The company benefited in particular from the shift to online shopping during the pandemic. It typically runs online stores for its sports team partners.
Castore has attracted new shareholders, in the form of Mohsin and Zuber Issa, the billionaire brothers from north-west England behind the EG Group petrol station chain and Asda supermarkets.
It has also recently moved headquarters from Liverpool to Manchester, thus tapping into the latter’s ecosystem of digital retailers including Boohoo and The Hut Group.
Sales in the year to end-January 2022 exceeded the figure for the first time
Castore sees opportunities in cricket as the game evolves through television-friendly short-form competitions such as The Hundred in England and the Indian Premier League.
“Nike, Adidas and Puma, do not compete in [cricket] anywhere near as fiercely as they do in football,” says Tom Beahon, co-founder of the business with his brother Phil, who played cricket semi-professionally. “That leaves an opening for me.
“We think there’s a huge opportunity for Castore to become the brand of cricket at a global level and, realistically, that would not be achievable in football, for example, purely because it’s so competitive.”
On top of its deal with the domestic governing body, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), to provide kits to the England team, Castore has signed a partnership with Kent men’s and women’s squads, as well as one with England international Jos Buttler.
The retailer has further partnerships to provide kits to the South African and West Indies international sides.
Beahon believes cricket should try to emulate the culture of football, where it is far more common for fans to buy replica shirts of their favourite team.
Castore’s deal with the ECB starts as the latter needs to address a racism scandal that rocked the sport last year, when former Yorkshire player Azeem Rafiq told parliament of the abuse he encountered in the county game.
The ECB has pledged to review the culture of the game to remove the “blight” of racism.
“I think the sport is going to go through a period of significant change,” Beahon says. “Those racism issues and allegations that remain ongoing will be a catalyst that the sport has to change; it’s right that it changes.
“We want to be part of sports categories that are going through changes, because [it] allows us to shape those changes.”
He highlights The Hundred as an example of how the game can move forward.
“It will appeal to a younger audience, it will appeal to people of a more diverse background, which is very positive for the long term,” Beahon says.
As he seeks new partnerships, he acknowledges the need to make decisions that are good for business, and not influenced by the powerful emotions of sport.
“We’re very focused on being disciplined and analytical in our decision making,” he says. “However, I would be lying if I said you don’t get some very special feelings of emotion and passion, and frankly joy, when you’re watching teams wear your logo . . . it’s indescribable when you experience those moments.”
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