There’s often an ‘ahah!’ moment that provides the seed of an idea for a business. In Clay Caird’s case it came when he spotted some old high school rugby headgear lying around at home.
“I saw the potential for a recyclable, disposable product which could be worn by spectators and used as a marketing/promotional platform,” says Clay. “That’s how the idea of the Footy Lid was born.”
Creative Hype (www.creative-hype.com) was established in 2011 and the concept was used as entry into the 2011 NBR Audacious Business Challenge – which Creative Hype went on to win.
Clay explains that his business and academic backgrounds are intertwined.
“I’ve always been interested in sport; I was a New Zealand ice hockey rep, and played a lot of different sports through school. I opted to study commerce as I was keen on a career in marketing. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce at Otago University in 2011, followed by a Masters degree in Entrepreneurship, with distinction, in 2012,” he says.
“It’s probably not surprising that I’ve ended up combining my two passions by founding a sports marketing company.”
Although studying and setting up a business at the same time is not exactly easy, over the past three years Clay has managed to successfully market his Footy Lid domestically and internationally, as well as develop a broader product range to target other market opportunities he’s identified.
Considering it has only been operating three years, Creative Hype has already achieved numerous milestones. Reaching accumulative sales of one million units was a big one. Then in late 2014 its products were recognised as being amongst the most innovative in the country at the Innovate New Zealand Awards. There has also been a Pride in Print Gold Award, and on the sales side, major contracts with significant international clients and sporting events worldwide.
Undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2014 was winning the ANZ Flying Start Business Plan Competition, with a $30,000 cash prize package plus various professional services and expertise.
Clay expected the competition to provide an extremely positive experience and be hugely beneficial for the business. He was right.
“I know it’s easy to get caught up working in instead of working on your business, and the competition provided the motivation and encouraged the discipline to really stop, reflect and plan,” he says. “I’m also really passionate about my business and its products and was keen to tap into the expertise, expert support and recognition associated with the competition.”
Clay says distilling the essence of what Creative Hype is all about into a five minute pitch was definitely the toughest part about entering. “Luckily Creative Hype’s products are very visual and experiential and I was able to leverage those five short minutes by showcasing product samples and video footage.”
He says the prize package will allow him to access resources to help implement his business plan. “The ANZ has already been outstanding in its support of Creative Hype – their involvement has been greater than just naming-rights sponsor.
“My competition pitch was based on taking Creative Hype products into US markets – so the prize will be applied towards the costs associated with the implementation of this.”
Challenges and goals
Ensuring its designs are fully IP protected is one of the biggest challenges for this young company, and when targeting multiple jurisdictions, it’s not cheap and it can slow speed to market. But Clay says IP protection is vital. “It’s the ‘green fees’ for establishing a business with products which can’t be copied or reproduced by your competitors.”
Those products have moved on from the initial Footy Lid. Creative Hype now owns 13 different helmet designs with IP registrations in 38 countries.
“Each design has been researched and developed to target specific market opportunities,” explains Clay. “To date our focus has been on rugby, rugby league and cricket. We’ve supplied product to Super 15, NPC, NRL and State of Origin in New Zealand and Australia; and England Rugby, or RFU, is a major client in the UK.
“For the past two seasons Creative Hype headgear has been deployed at Twickenham during the Six Nations, autumn test matches and London Sevens,” he adds. “And our cricket helmet has been used by all 18 counties sides during the last two seasons of the English T20 series.
“It’s now time to focus on our other helmet designs, hence our strategy for the US. We’ve already had substantial interest in our American football, baseball, ice hockey and motorsport designs.”
The plan to trade in the US will be all-consuming for the next two years, admits Clay, but this will create a level of expertise and experience to assist them into other large markets. This includes launching their cricket product into India and securing contracts for their motorsport products.
“There are also opportunities in sport event promotions and activations, particularly when Creative Hype products are used as a platform for digital marketing campaigns,” says Clay. The five-year plan is to establish Creative Hype as a strong international player in sports promotion and marketing, with significant client bases in Europe, the US and India.
A key lesson out of all this is that everything you do is marketing, explains Clay.
“Every aspect of your business; how you deal with clients, the quality of your products, everything about the ‘face’ you present to the world communicates something about your brand,” he adds.
“Creative Hype has been built on innovation, creativity and attention to detail. I won’t compromise on anything which impacts on these.
“It’s really important to have a clear set of brand values and stick to them.”