How A Cease-And-Desist Letter From FOX Helped RSVLTS Become A Multi-Million Dollar Apparel Company
One of the worst days of Stephen Gebhardt’s life quickly turned into one of the best for him and his company. The former marketing executive was in the midst of launching an apparel company and was just starting to earn significant buzz surrounding his early products when a cease and desist letter came out of left field.
“My heart basically sunk to middle earth,” says Gebhardt. “But they were really understanding of our situation after a few calls.”
Instead of entering into a fight that Gebhardt probably would have lost, he decided to attempt a negotiation of rights to the logos from The Sandlot as part of a licensing agreement. The parties worked out their differences and the rest is history.
Gebhardt’s RSVLTS brand not only sells apparel bearing images from The Sandlot, but has since struck deals with MGM for Rocky, Paramount for Major League and another agreement with FOX for Rookie of the Year. He says that there is another creative licensing arrangement in the works as well.
The company essentially takes legendary sports films and lets consumers wear the nostalgia of cult classics literally right on their sleeves. The Sandlot inspired apparel often opens the door into peoples’ houses, they become great conversation starters and then customers tend to end up ordering a lot of the company’s original RSVLTS design.
RSVLTS is now approaching eight-figures in revenue per year and is shipping out thousands of orders per month. The company was 100% direct-to-consumer until about June, when it launched a “Shop Local” campaign, partnering with mom-and-pop local retailers. It already has sixty retail partnerships; the goal was merely twenty in 2018.
It has at least doubled its business every single year since 2015 and projects 300% growth for 2018. All that growth has been accomplished without Gebhardt taking a dime from any outside investor since RSVLTS beginnings.
A large catalyst for growth has been publicity garnered through use and sharing by athletes and celebrities. For instance, Gebhardt sent one of his shirts to a generic New York Yankees stadium address and was pleasantly surprised to discover Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge wearing it in a post-game conference right after he hit a monster home run.
“We’ve had some great success with influencer work,” explains Gebhardt. “Every Spring Training we will send stuff out to the top fifty guys in fantasy sports in a care package. We are also identifying 50-100 top prospects and sending them it.”
Gebhardt notes that Major League Baseball’s Bryce Harper and Anthony Rizzo are superfans of his products. They are products that Harper and Rizzo would not be able to wear but for Gebhart’s intelligent response to an early demand from FOX.