T-Shirt Company Acts Fast, Catches Trend of King James’ Return

LeBron T-shirt - capitalizing on trends

Early Friday afternoon, news broke that NBA superstar LeBron James was leaving the Miami Heat after four years and returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

We won’t turn this into a basketball article by any stretch, but to set the tone remember the history.  It was four years ago almost to the day, that LeBron (aka “King James”, “Witness”, et al) ceremoniously announced that he was leaving Cleveland after frustratingly being unable to deliver championships he had promised the city. The way in which he told the world has been criticized ever since. He went on to win a pair of championships in Miami.

Meanwhile, the fans in Cleveland were stung and some harbored hard feelings for years afterwards.

But on Friday, all was “forgiven” it seems.

The results of this news are that LeBron will make millions of dollars, the owner of the team will make even more, and at least for now, one small business in Cleveland that took a small risk has made a big name — and a lot of money — for itself in a matter of hours and days.

Fresh Brewed Tees was still selling custom T-shirts it had designed in anticipation of LeBron’s return as of midnight on Friday in the streets of Cleveland. The company’s story is a perfect example of a small business capitalizing on trends — one fast-moving trend in particular.  It also demonstrates how to use social media to communicate with thousands of new customers on the fly, such as this tweet:

Earlier in the day, right after news of LeBron James’ return was published by Sports Illustrated, the T-shirt company’s website crashed, according to a FoxSports.com report.  (At various points during the day we here at Small Business Trends also tried to reach the site, and were mostly not successful.)  Online sales had stopped temporarily but the company was still very active on the ground.

Fresh Brewed Tees used social media to set up meeting points around Cleveland where people could buy their shirts.  By the middle of the afternoon, the company was using Twitter to notify Cavs fans where they could purchase freshly printed shirts to celebrate his return.

The T-shirts that are selling literally as fast as they can be made feature the word FORGIVEN across the chest. The “G” in FORGIVEN has been replaced with a “6,” LeBron’s jersey number when he played in Miami. The shirts are available in three color schemes, two matching the Cavaliers current and throwback uniforms, and another in black-and-white. The shirts sell for $26.

The owner of Fresh Brewed Tees, Tony Madalone, told Fox Sports immediately after LeBron’s homecoming announcement that he had begun planning for this moment a week ago. That’s when the design phase for the shirt began — even before he knew of James’ decision.

On Friday, the biggest challenges the company faced were keeping the website online in the face of intense traffic and meeting the demand of thousands of customers. Relatively speaking, those are good problems to have.

Fresh Brewed Tees is not the only company of its kind, not even in the basketball world. Local sports fan bases everywhere are supporting similar small custom apparel businesses that regularly find themselves capitalizing on trends. This isn’t even the first time Fresh Brewed Tees has done this.

Following the NFL draft, the company’s hometown Browns introduced their pick, the much ballyhooed Johnny “Money” Manziel. Fresh Brewed Tees was quick to produce Johnny T-shirts playing off his moniker then, too.  The Johnny T-shirt shows Manziel making the money sign with his fingers, a shot from draft day.

In New York several years ago, The7Line.com experienced a similar – albeit smaller – rush for orders when the New York Mets were faced with watching star players walk away after the team’s ownership had lost millions in the Bernie Madoff scandal. Buoyed by that notoriety and success, that company has since expanded and offers new products constantly and even has created its own fan base that regularly attends games together.

And in the sports-hungry city of Philadelphia, there are several small custom T-shirt businesses that are regularly updating product designs to stay with current trends.

The LeBron Forgiven shirt is at FreshBrewedTees.com.

Image: FreshBrewedTees


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

4 Reactions
  1. You really have to time your designs. Like when the new terms like ‘selfie’ and ‘ootd’ came out, a lot of shirts with that name also came out. The key is to create something that the people will need. Movies can work out as well.

  2. I love these products. Maybe not the Cleveland Cavs/LeBron-specific ones, of course, but one of my prized possessions is my Kramerica Industries T-shirt I got as a gift last Christmas.

    Fan-based businesses like these are really taking off as it gets easier to produce clothing and other baubles or even publish fan fiction.

  3. This was a very good product and design because it really connects to the buyers without knowing LeBron James.