Pat Cavanaugh knows all about being successful on and off the court. As a student-athlete, he was a key member of some of the greatest basketball triumphs in the history of the storied program of the University of Pittsburgh, playing alongside all-time greats like Charles Smith and Jerome Lane. As a businessman, he has built a series of brands revolving around healthy lifestyle and social responsibility. The latest and biggest is Crons, an athletic lifestyle brand that incorporates quality living, successful academics and great gear into one program for young people in any sport and of all ages.
Crons, which stands for “Come Ready or Never Start,” has grown exponentially every year and is now being used by over 500 schools and athletic programs nationwide. Some of their biggest deals revolve around their “Achievers Program,” which rewards student-athletes who are successful on the court, in the classroom and the community. The program is also now being used in conferences like the Atlantic 10, CAA and Big South as well as elite high schools like Massillon in Ohio.
However, some of the greatest exposure for Crons comes from when its elite schools do well on the court as well as off, and this week the brand will get a big boost when the University of North Carolina at Asheville will take their affiliation to the NCAA Tournament, as surprise champions of the Big South Conference. We spent a few minutes with Pat to discuss the value of a trip to the Big Dance for a brand like Crons, and also to see what else he is up to with this fast growing business.
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Dime: Getting a school in the NCAA Tournament for a small brand is so tough, and Crons has now been there three years in a row. How does that help your business?
Pat Cavanaugh: It helps our business in regards to brand recognition and credibility. It has resulted in our business being featured in national media outlets like The New York Times, CNBC and Huffington Post. You can’t buy that kind of credibility. It gives us tremendous legitimacy when we are meeting with prospective schools that may be unfamiliar with the brand.
Dime: You have made inroads with several Mid-Major Conferences. What sets your business apart from major brands who have been there before?
PC: What separates initially is the mentality behind the brand – Come Ready or Never Start – which emphasizes outworking the competition, overcoming adversity, focusing on practice and preparation, and ignoring the ‘noise’ of doubters when setting and achieving goals. We see ourselves as a mentality performance brand with a specific message that athletic administrators and coaches appreciate because it’s a mentality that helps motivate their student-athletes. They know we are more than an athletic apparel brand, that we care about motivating their student-athletes to achieve their goals and then help them make their best…better. We then back up that mentality with top quality apparel that features the latest in performance technology with competitive pricing. Finally, our conference partners are appreciative of our customer service – they know they are going to receive personal attention for all their teams regardless of the sport.
Dime: As a former player at Pitt, how does understanding the mentality of top athletes and coaches help in securing schools?
PC: Having played D1 ball at the University of Pittsburgh on some Top 10-ranked teams, I know the mentality I needed to achieve my athletic goals, and also the mentality it takes for players to reach their full potential. When I talk about that mentality – the Crons mentality – coaches know exactly what I mean. It’s the mentality they are trying to instill in their players during each and every practice and during each and every game. They are appreciative of a brand that clearly focuses on the mental aspect of the game and what it takes for players to succeed.
Dime: People know the competition because of their big-name athletes and in-your-face marketing campaigns, but what is Crons’ pitch that makes people take interest?
PC: Our brand is for athletes who love proving people wrong and outworking the competition. Ignoring what we call “Noise” of all the doubters who say you can’t get it done. I personally love hearing that. We’ve had many of the top agencies contact us about athletes they represent who want to be a part of our brand. We are just now looking to sign our first group of athletes who represent our mentality. We want athletes who represent us that come down on a fast break and throw a nasty dunk on someone’s neck instead of pulling up for a jumper – and act like they’ve done it before. People can relate to our brand – especially athletes at the college or professional level because somewhere along the line someone told them they wouldn’t make it to the League or get a college scholarship. Our mentality is what people respect because everyone has a Crons story to share.
Dime: Kids come to know brands through AAU teams many times. Is mass market AAU sponsorship part of what you are doing?
PC: It’s interesting. We started our own Crons Club Program five years ago with one team and now we have over 20 teams and 200-plus players just in Pittsburgh. We are adding teams in Philly and New York this year, as well as some other cities. We didn’t want to have a program that just taught the game of basketball so we also teach strength training, diet and nutrition, injury prevention and study habits, all things players need to get ready for the next level. We have sponsored some major national basketball camps, combines and showcases and will continue to spread our brand message. What better message to share with players as they strive for their goals than “Come Ready or Never Start.”
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