Untuckit’s Riccobono Teams With Derek Jeter on New Athletic Line

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Chris Riccobono has some high-powered friends in the sports arena. And the Untuckit founder has brought three of the country’s most accomplished athletes together to help him in an ambitious new project — the launch of an athletic brand he hopes will unseat some of the biggest names in sports apparel.

Riccobono has teamed with newly inducted Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, as well as former hockey star Wayne Gretzky and groundbreaking ballerina Misty Copeland to launch Greatness Wins.

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“It’s a really big idea,” Riccobono acknowledged.

The entrepreneur, who continues in his role as founder and executive chairman of Untuckit, said the idea of launching Greatness Wins came to him during the height of the pandemic.

“As an entrepreneur, I always need to be doing something,” he said. “During COVID[-19], there was a lot of down time and I was thinking about where else I could be disruptive.”

Riccobono created Untuckit in 2011 when he couldn’t find a shirt that looked good when it wasn’t tucked into his pants. So he approached his Columbia Business School classmate Aaron Sanandres with the idea of starting a business creating shirts for men that could be worn untucked. Since that time, they have built one of the fastest-growing men’s brands in North America with 86 stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., and sales of more than $300 million.

“I was thinking, how can I do that again,” Riccobono said.

He set his sights on the athletic market and set out to create a brand that has a different positioning than the other players in the business. “Whatever market you pick, there are 50,000 people starting new companies every day,” he said. “But like we did with Untuckit, we set out to position a new brand without competing directly with anyone else.”

Riccobono immediately dismissed the idea of launching an athleisure company “because there are so many of them,” he said. Instead, he zeroed in on a pure athletic brand. “But how do you compete with Nike and Adidas?” he asked.

It was about finding a niche.

“I work out all the time but when I received anything from the big companies, the quality was terrible,” he said. “There’s no attention to specifications, the fits are not good, they shrink and pill.”

He was especially frustrated by the lack of consistent fits available in the market. “You can go to any store, buy seven shirts and they all have different specs. That’s something we learned at Untuckit. It costs a lot to put quality control in place, but specifications are a huge thing for men and it’s what makes Untuckit successful.”

Once Riccobono settled on that as a key component of his burgeoning business plan, he studied how best to set the idea apart from the athleisure brands. “They’re great looking, but they’re not meant to work out in,” he said. “So I set out to create a product that looks great and performs great.”

But that wasn’t enough either. In order to create a splash, Riccobono knew he had to come up with another differentiator. “I brought in all-time greats to advise and test the product,” he said.

Enter Jeter, Gretzky and Copeland.

Jeter was famous for his unparalleled play on the field during his 20-year career as well as his post-baseball business acumen, where he served as chief executive officer and part owner of the Miami Marlins and launched The Players Tribune, a sports media company. And on July 18, Jeter will be showcased in a seven-part docuseries on ESPN that chronicles his life and career.

“It was a very different experience,” Jeter said of the film. “I’ve always joked that I could tell my life story in 30 minutes, but clearly there was a great team working on this, because they got me to share much more. I never really took the time to reflect on my career while I was playing, so this experience in conjunction with last year’s Hall of Fame induction have been really special and rewarding.”

“I’m from New York and there’s no one I respect more on and off the field than Derek Jeter,” Riccobono said.

“I met Chris about 18 months ago, and we’ve spent a large part of the last year working to bring Greatness Wins to life,” Jeter told WWD. “We obviously are motivated to bring a truly great athletic brand to the market, but we also have a shared vision of building something that is more than just a brand — something that has meaning and motivation for the consumer.”

Wayne Gretzky has become an avid golfer since retiring from hockey.
Wayne Gretzky has become an avid golfer since retiring from hockey.

Gretzky, nicknamed “The Great One,” and considered by many to be the greatest hockey player of all time, also played 20 seasons in the National Hockey League for the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers, and is in the hockey hall of fame. Since retirement, he’s become an avid golfer and his daughter Paulina is married to pro golfer Dustin Johnson. Gretzky already had a relationship with Untuckit as both an ambassador and investor.

Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky and Chris Riccobono. - Credit: GARY LAND
Derek Jeter, Wayne Gretzky and Chris Riccobono. - Credit: GARY LAND

GARY LAND

And Copeland is a dancer for the American Ballet Theatre and was the first Black woman to be named principal dancer in the company’s 75-year history. She had a longstanding relationship with Under Armour which ended several years ago, Riccobono said.

Misty Copeland will help guide the launch of Greatness Wins’ womenswear.
Misty Copeland will help guide the launch of Greatness Wins’ womenswear.

Although none of the three athletes are investors in Greatness Wins, they are nevertheless involved in the creation of the line.

“I am very involved, and I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Jeter said. “I’m learning a lot throughout this process and hopefully bringing a lot to the table as well. I work with Chris and our design team on the vision for each season’s line, on our marketing collateral, on our customer strategy and so on. Beyond the launch, we have a lot of big ideas that we’re excited to implement over the next few seasons.”

Jeter said he, Gretzky and Copeland are “all contributing to the brand in a really collaborative way, but we’re also using our own backgrounds to focus on specific areas as well. Misty will assist in the development of the women’s line we are launching next year, while Wayne will focus on our golf line and take that category to the next level. The three of us coming together with Chris highlights something that is important to us — there’s no one definition of athlete and no one path to being an athlete. What unites us is a competitive motivation and a shared desire to be the best we possibly can be in everything we undertake.”

The former baseball star’s involvement with Greatness Wins marks the first time Jeter has been so closely involved with a fashion brand. Throughout his playing career and since his retirement, Jeter said he has “been fortunate to work with athletic and fashion brands both officially and unofficially, but this is the first where I feel like I have direct involvement in so many varied aspects of the business. I’m proud of our vision and of what our team is building together, and this is just the beginning for us.”

A look from Greatness Wins.
A look from Greatness Wins.

Greatness Wins, Jeter believes, will fill a void in the market.

“So much of my life has revolved around being active, training, pushing myself, and although I’m no longer competing professionally, I still demand the best from myself. I’ve worn a lot of different types of athletic wear throughout the years, and what I appreciated early on in my conversations with Chris was that we both were aligned on elevating the fabrics used and perfecting the fit. We are looking for product that really performs and is best in class.

“For us, Greatness isn’t a goal — it’s a mind-set,” Jeter continued. “We hope this brand will be successful, both from a customer standpoint, and from the standpoint of having an impact on local communities and young aspiring athletes. We aim to inspire future generations of athletes to dream big and put in the effort in pursuit of those dreams.”

Chris Riccobono and Derek Jeter working on Greatness Wins.
Chris Riccobono and Derek Jeter working on Greatness Wins.

Initially, Greatness Wins will offer “straightforward product,” Riccobono said, including performance Ts, joggers and shorts. Going forward, the plan is to add categories as well as sports-specific products for golf, tennis, basketball and other sports, and will include tanks, compression items, quarter-zips, golf shirts and shorts. Sneakers are in the plan as well, along with womenswear.

Sustainability is also important to the brand. Some 98 percent of the base materials for Greatness Wins are either Bluesign or Oeko-Tex certified, and 80 percent of the shorts are made with recycled fibers.

The line will launch on June 28.
The line will launch on June 28.

Prices are “premium, but affordable,” Riccobono said, with joggers selling for $98 and shorts for $68. “That’s in line with the athleisure brands but more than Nike or Adidas.”

“There have been no new brands launched since the big ones,” Riccobono said. He said Tom Brady’s brand, that hit the market earlier this year, is more of an athleisure brand than a performance brand. “And we think of Greatness Wins as having a unique team, not as a one-man show.”

The brand is being bankrolled primarily through friends and family, Riccobono said. “We raised money through our contacts with Untuckit. The athletes did not invest.”

The line will launch on June 28 and will be all direct-to-consumer, the same strategy employed with Untuckit. “We don’t do wholesale with Untuckit, and for Greatness Wins, we might line up one partner down the road, but it won’t be discounted. All the big brands can be found at every discount store and we don’t want that. And we eventually hope to open stores in year two or three,” Riccobono said.

RIccobono acknowledges that his plans for Greatness Wins are very ambitious, but he’s convinced he’s found the right formula for success. “I know it’s a strange group — Derek, Wayne, Misty and the Untuckit guy — but we expect to build it like we did Untuckit,” he said. “I know we’re aiming for the stars, but we want this to be the next great athletic brand.”

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