Cavaliers’ NBA title big score for local merchandising firm

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Cleveland’s first professional sports championship in 52 years is resonating all the way to the Circle City.

MainGate Inc. is anticipating a solid six-figure payday as one of about 10 NBA-licensed companies selling Cleveland Cavaliers merchandise in the wake of the team’s NBA title over the Golden State Warriors.

cavs shirts 225pxThrough its licensing agreement with the NBA and an ongoing partnership with the Cavaliers, the Indianapolis-based event and retail company has been printing World Championship T-shirts and caps since the final horn sounded Sunday night. (Click on image for larger view.)

“We have completed the initial order of more than 14,000 T-shirts, featuring six different designs, as well as [thousands of pieces of] championship headwear,” Moroknek said in an email Wednesday, the day the Cavs took part in a massive parade in Cleveland. “With demand for championship apparel very high in Cleveland, we are ready to react as additional orders come in.”

Moroknek said demand was strong for the new products.

“With it being such a long time since Cleveland won any type of sports championship, the dramatic way the Cavs came back, and the star-power of LeBron James, demand is simply off the charts,” Moroknek said.

And while MainGate also sold some merchandise for Golden State this year, Moroknek admitted that Cleveland's victory was better for his company.

“We just have a closer relationship with the Cavaliers,” he explained.

MainGate has been the merchandising company for the Indiana Pacers for more than seven years, but got its foot in the door with league-wide NBA business in 2015 with its “Item of the Game” initiative.

In 2014, MainGate pitched an idea to the NBA to create a special “Item of the Game” promotion for all 30 teams for all 41 of their home games—plus any home playoff games. Last year, the NBA gave the idea the green light.

Through the program, MainGate built relationships with 17 of 30 NBA teams—including Cleveland and Golden State.

MainGate designed and made a large Warriors blanket that sold out during Game 5 of this year’s NBA Finals in Golden State.

Cleveland, which handles most of its merchandise sales in-house, asked MainGate officials if they could help with merchandising throughout the playoffs and at the team's watch parties for games played at Golden State.

“As things got going into the playoffs, we were making more and more items for the Cavaliers,” Moroknek explained.

The Cavaliers leased four merchandising trucks from MainGate for those events during the NBA Finals and also for the championship parade.

Moroknek predicted the NBA championship business his company earned will lead to bigger NBA deals in future years.

“For us, it shows how much trust we’ve gained with the teams to get this size of an [NBA championship] order our first year,” Moroknek told IBJ. “We’re competing with some of the biggest merchandisers, but we’re very confident our designers will come up with some really great items that will sell really strong. The fans will let us know how we’re doing very shortly.”

While most NBA-licensed merchandisers aim to sell between 75 percent to 80 percent of the items they manufacture, MainGate has achieved sales of more than 90 percent of the NBA-licensed items it has made this year, Moroknek said.

“Our track record has been good in our sell-throughs,” Moroknek said. “That record should help us grow this business sector. We think the NBA-licensed business could become a top 10 piece of business for our company.”

MainGate also sells merchandise for several NFL teams and the Super Bowl, auto racing series and teams, the National Hockey League, NCAA, Chevrolet, the PGA and others.

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