This is an updated version of the article I wrote for Shopify Blog about the success my company True Rivalry has been having. The original can be found here.

Sports apparel is a one of the fastest growing verticals in ecommerce. Sports themed t-shirts, hats, and hoodies are popping up in online stores everywhere. True Rivalry is a successful sports apparel company that sells their goods through their Shopify store. They have steady sales, they’ve had a few of their products go viral, and they’ve garnered a whole bunch of local and national press — all without spending money on advertising.

1. Use Social Media to Reach Influencers:
If you’re not utilizing social media, then you need to start. Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are great ways to reach out to influential people and celebrities. We did our research on influential sports fans and, simply engaged them on multiple platforms by saying we were big fans and since they were sports fans, they should check out our apparel. Of course most ignored us, but every now and then a celebrity would respond. Since we began reaching out to celebrities and athletes, quite a few have become supporters of our brand and even tweet about our products (see our celebrity following here). We can’t directly relate these posts to sales, but celebrity endorsement does create positive brand awareness and adds credibility to our online store.

2. Give Bloggers Stories andFree Stuff:
Bloggers are always looking for ways to give back to their readers. In addition to good story ideas, offer them promo codes and giveaways they can give their audience. When something big happens in sports, we reach out to team up with leading bloggers and offer them a deal, the return for True Rivalry was an article and a significant increase in sales. We reach out to as many major sports team’s blogs as we can. A lot of emails will go unanswered, but it only takes a couple of replies to make your effort worthwhile.

3. Start Local, Go National:
We learnt this lesson from our mentor, Daymond John (Shark Tank investor and FUBU founder). The problem with a lot of internet companies, and startups in particular, is that they have the tendency to disregard the local press. They believe it’s a waste of time and resources and that it’s more effective to focus all PR efforts on national media. That’s a mistake. You have to crawl before you run. At True Rivalry, we have garnered national press but only after getting local press mentions first. Getting a local paper or television show to feature your story or products is far easier than getting national coverage. Once we laid a foundation of small press mentions, we added it to our press kit and then approached bigger, more influential publications.

4. Give to Charity:
Good karma is a reality. We’ve teamed up with various athletes to create t-shirts where proceeds go to a charity of their choice. It’s something we love to do and not just for press it garners, but rather to support a good cause. It just so happens that it also got the attention of local radio stations and newspapers. Find a cause that resonates with you and team up with them and if it aligns with your brand, all the better. We all know that being a part of your community and investing in it is so much more than good business, it’s the right thing to do.