Founded in 1851, and officially trademarked 20 years later, Fruit of the Loom is one of the oldest and most recognizable brands in the U.S., if not the world. The company’s trademark predates iconic patents ranging from Coca-Cola to the lightbulb and the paper bag. Since its inception, Fruit of the Loom has grown from a small Rhode Island textile company to the world’s leading provider of under-wear and casualwear.
They’ve also become part of the pop culture landscape thanks to licensing endeavors like Underoos, an inbound licensing effort that allowed the company to use the IP of four major comic book characters from DC and Marvel at the beginning of its licensing program. First introduced to the public in 1978, Underoos were an immediate hit with kids and created a memorable slogan (“The Underwear That’s Fun to Wear!”). In 2016, the brand managed to earn a shout-out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film, “Captain America: Civil War,” when Iron Man teasingly christens Spider-Man “Underoos” based on his costume.
Fruit of the Loom has also earned a reputation as an advertising jugger-naut, one that knows how to market to its audience. During the 1950s, Fruit of the Loom brought in a number of celebrities ranging from comedian Terry Thomas to Howard Cosell to act as spokespeople for the brand. During the ’70s and ’80s, they put together a series of commercials starring the famous “Fruit of the Loom Guys” that propelled the name to near universal house-hold recognition.
From the very beginning, the company understood the power of branding. In 1856, founding partner Robert Knight noticed that the daughter of one of his customers hand-painted apples on the bolts of cloth he had sold him, and that those were the most popular sellers. Not long after, Fruit of the Loom, with its signature bundle of fruit logo, was born. Today, as the company reaches its 170th year, Fruit of the Loom, and its wide variety of brands – which range from Russell Athletic to Spalding and Vanity Fair lingerie – continues to make strong inroads into the licensing space.
“Licensing allows us to drive brand equity by expanding our reach to create deeper, more meaningful consumer connections,” says Mandy Emedi, director, licensing, Fruit of the Loom. “We do this through category extensions in native markets, and we license our brands into new geographic markets as well.”