Live Breathe Futbol: How a college kid built a worldwide sports apparel brand
Like most young men getting ready to celebrate a 21st birthday, Ebun Olaloye had some wild ideas. Unlike most, however, Olaloye’s had nothing to do with partying. This was four years ago.
“We had a group of guys who played soccer together during our time at Temple University,” says Olaloye, who is a native of Nigeria. “Live, Breathe Futbol kind of described the lifestyle. So, I made 21 t-shirts for my birthday, posted them on Twitter, and figured whoever bought them, we’d hopefully cover the cost. Well, they all sold out. That’s sort of how our brand got started.”
Today, Live Breathe Futbol, based in Philadelphia, is a rapidly growing apparel brand, specializing in soccer-themed clothing that sells in the lifestyle space. Olaloye, who partnered with one of his soccer buddies, Dom Cucinotta, now has a wide range of products that have caught the attention of not only soccer fanatics, but also professional players around the world. Brazil’s David Luiz and Alexandre Pato have been spotted wearing LBF shirts, and Major League Soccer players like Orlando City’s Amobi Okugo have helped promote the line.
“I started with 160 bucks to make our first shirts,” Olaloye recalls. “To think we are now selling across the world is pretty amazing. It’s been organic, but pretty quick as well.”
Like the first very shirt he produced in 2010, most of the LBF products are fairly simple in terms of their design elements, but they most certainly have attitude. Among the players featured on the threads are brash strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli, ever-cool and confident Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo and up-and-coming American star DeAndre Yedlin.
“We want to be the premier soccer apparel company, off the field,” says Olaloye. “All our clothes are inspired by the game. For us, it’s all about people who eat, drink and sleep the game 24/7. We are not really catering to the casual soccer fan. We are hardcore.”
After moving to the U.S. from Nigeria at the age of 10, Olaloye, the son of a doctor and a seamstress, played the game competitively right up until the time he entered college. At that point, he played club soccer, but found a group of friends who shared his passion for soccer. While he toyed with the idea of becoming an entrepreneur, it was not until he came up with the birthday shirt idea that he truly felt he had an idea he was willing to pursue.
“The 21st birthday shirt is still our best seller,” says Olaloye. “It comes in quite a few colors now, but it has remained popular even as we’ve added to the line over the last four years.”
While nowhere near content with their standing in the world of soccer apparel, Live Breathe Futbol has had a few moments where they’ve been able to bask in their own glory. In June of 2013, while playing for the Philadelphia Union, Okugo lifted his jersey after scoring a goal against FC Dallas to reveal his LBF shirt. Pato posted a photo of himself wearing his LBF shirt.
“We’re really still in the beginning,” says Olaloye.
“We’re hoping to move from shirts, hats and jackets to bags and other items. We’re going to expand the product line. Seeing the platform we’ve built, and the way we’ve been able to get players to showcase our line, we see a lot of potential for growth. Everyone has seen the game grow and we’re trying to ride that wave.”