Cataloger Goes For the Jugular

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Breakaway Sports, Littleton, CO - whose tag line is "Everything you need for lacrosse except first aid" - needed an equally edgy idea to stay top-of-mind among its customer base of high school and college lacrosse coaches and players.

The solution is a poster, created by TDA Advertising & Design, Longmont, CO, that will serve triple duty: as a direct mail piece, a brand reminder and an item for sale by the cataloger/retailer. The mailing drops next month to 10,000 high schools, middle schools and colleges. In February and March, another 15,000 will go out to customers who have purchased $250 or more in products in the past 12 months.

The poster features shaky, grainy photographs of lacrosse players body-checking one another in a heated game, framed by taped borders laced with occasional splotches of blood. "Lacrosse was invented by Native Americans to solve tribal conflict, when war was not violent enough," the accompanying copy reads. By the end of February, the posters will be sold through the company's catalog, its retail store and its e-commerce site, which is scheduled to launch by February.

"They wanted to be first on kids' lists and get their attention," said Jonathan Schoenberg, creative director at TDA Advertising. "Coaches will display them in the locker room. It's only worthwhile if coaches and players will put it up."

This is one reason Breakaway - a company with a very focused product niche and little marketplace competition - left out its telephone number and Web address on the poster, because it was more important, according to 30-year-old owner/president Philip McCarthy, to capture the spirit and passion of the rough sport. McCarthy himself was an avid lacrosse player in college.

The company also wanted to sell the posters to customers and felt a less commercial, subtle brand image would appeal to students looking for something to hang on their walls.

"They thought if they made it too commercial, people wouldn't want to pay money for it," Schoenberg said. "The hope is to sell enough of them to make the direct mail almost free."

Breakaway sells hockey equipment as well as lacrosse gear, and the catalog goes out at least twice a year to lacrosse and hockey coaches and players. TDA Advertising supplements that with a handful of specialized promotional mailings to its 100,000-member database.

More than anything, McCarthy wants the posters to catch on among students who are demanding something that isn't readily available otherwise.

"There aren't any real lacrosse posters out on the market," he said. "They existed 12 years ago, but they haven't been around for at least six years."

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