At BAYDOG, we never planned to make licensed gear for dogs. It just sort of happened… Here’s the story:
While walking my dog Walter in downtown Annapolis I ran into my neighbor, who happens to be the buyer for the Naval Academy Store. She asked if BAYDOG would be interested in making something for the Academy? The pet category has been growing steadily for them, but she was dissatisfied with the quality of their overall offering. As an Academy graduate, of course my answer was an enthusiastic YES!
Working together we decided to start with the Saginaw Fleece –an established product that is a proven seller, affordable, and highly customizable. We matched the pantones and the fonts perfectly, and the result was an awesome Blue and Gold fleece that said BEAT ARMY on the rear. It was a huge hit! So much so that it caught the eye of a buyer at a large corporate that specializes in licensed college merchandise. They wanted to put the Saginaw Fleece in every college they work with, and the buyer asked me, “How many licenses do you have?” I explained that our deal with Navy was license-exempt, to which she replied, “OK, that’s going to be a problem…” But it was a problem we could solve.
In the next few months we applied for and received 23 college licenses, including most of the BIG 10, all three service academies, and others from the ACC, Ivy League and SEC. We submitted 23 separate designs and got them approved, manufactured and in stores in record time. We’re not just printing logos on existing product –each design is its own factory run, perfectly matching the school colors with the exact pantones, logos and wordmarks.
As we learned more about licensing it became clear there is a big difference between general apparel and the pet category. In apparel, most licensed gear is made by top brands that people know and trust, like Under Armour and Nike. But in the pet category, most licensed gear is made by companies who specialize in licensing, not premium pet gear. The result is novelty-level quality. But people love their dogs, and they love their teams, and they want the best for both. That’s what BAYDOG provides: premium dog gear made to the standard of quality you’ve come to expect, but in your favorite team’s colors.
Next we adapted our best-selling product, the Chesapeake Harness, into our College Harness design. We removed the handle from the back, and replaced it with a panel that could carry a college logo. We made the harness itself the primary team color, and the straps the secondary team color. So for example, the Florida Gators harness is blue with orange straps. It has one D-ring on the back, and like its predecesor the Chesapeake, has one on the front to counter pulling.
The last thing we did was desigen a custom hanger card for each harness. BAYDOG is 100% focused on supporting small business, specifically independent brick and mortar pet stores. That's where 95% of our revenue comes from, so we had to create packaging that would display well in retail. And in my opinion, we crushed it! Each hanger card is a unique design, and some are completely customized with images provided by the school. For example, the University of Minnesota hanger card features shots of the famous Goldy Gopher Statue and the inside of Huntington Bank Stadium.
This season we expanded to 33 schools, but BAYDOG is not going to become a licensing company. Our focus will continue to be on making the best dog gear possible and supporting our brick and mortar retail partners. But when appropriate, we will adapt market-proven designs for your favorite teams. We hope you love them!