Fans’ devotion inspires new clothing brand

Desi Gillespie, Contributing Writer

Since arriving at the University in 2007, Nick Saban has become a target of scorn and frustration for other college football teams. Playing off of the phrase “Hail Satan,” many LSU, Georgia, Florida and Auburn fans collectively landed on the phrase “Hail Saban” as a means to criticize fans’ devotion to Saban.

However, one die-hard Saban fan, UA Professor Mark Barry, saw the criticism as an opportunity and ran with it, creating a clothing brand and coining it Hail Saban.

“I kind of love that it is [an insult],” Barry said. “Even more reason for me to take ownership of it as a fan.”

When he’s not teaching, Barry uses his advertising experience to build his clothing brand. Hail Saban knows how to use the niche online market to minimize cost and maximize customer satisfaction.

“I don’t have boxes of inventory sitting around or anything; it’s all order by order, absolutely zero overhead,” Barry said.

It’s easy to see the tongue-in-cheek humor that fuels the brand’s concepts on Hail Saban’s webstore. From polo shirts labeled “The Official Uniform of Office Casual” to ladies’ racerback tanks saying “Your Chakras Ain’t Going to Align Themselves,” Barry’s marketing strategies are evident.

“It’s all just a big joke really,” he said. “For example, when [Saban] gets fired up, he says ‘a’ight’ a lot. I thought it would make for a good shirt and made the design have a visual nod to Supreme.”

One of the most popular sellers for Hail Saban is its original logo of a scrawled triangle and all-seeing eye. A “Pluck & Grit” t-shirt, referencing the fight song with a stylized crimson flame is also a popular item.

Student reactions to the clothing brand are positive. Designs from Hail Saban’s website pop up on campus, particularly around game day.

“I think the Supreme parodies are really cool,” said Jake Bowden, a freshman majoring in accounting. “All the designs are super creative.”

Barry said he doesn’t think his students know much about the brand, but believes it sets a positive example for anyone who aspires to be in business.

“I’m always telling my students to hustle, treat everything as an experiment,” Barry said. “If they get anything out of it, I hope they might think I am just out there walking the walk.”

Local ownership creates an interesting appeal for many students.

“I like that it’s run locally, like Tuscaloosa is representing itself on its own terms,” said Bess Gordon, an undecided freshman.

Barry also runs a Twitter account for the brand. Followers can expect to see general hype for the Crimson Tide, as well as analysis of the wider college football scene. Rife with game day updates, Hail Saban’s Twitter provides a humorous face for the clothing brand.

“In all ways, I’m playing at the low stakes gambling table here,” Barry said. “I figured this is a good opportunity to try some things and see what works.”

The feed’s posts are right in line with the personality of the web store, keeping an irreverent and honest tone in its devotion to Saban and Alabama football.

“I hope the coach doesn’t find out and decide to get me fired,” Barry said, when asked for his general thoughts on his brand.

For the web store, visit Hail Saban is on Twitter @hailsabanbrand.