Pat Cavanaugh earned a reputation as a tough, headstrong leader at the University of Pittsburgh, going from a point guard walk-on to Panthers team captain his senior year, and helping rebuild the Panthers into an NCAA powerhouse for a good part of the 1980’s. He has never lost that focus in the business world, growing his Pittsburgh-based apparel and motivational brand Crons (“Come Ready or Never Start”) into a multi-million dollar business.
One of the keys for Cavanaugh and company has been in identifying like-minded programs, high schools and colleges, who were looking for an edge. As a result of that eye for a challenge, the Crons brand now works with
over 20,000 student-athletes from 48 schools, all wearing Crons gear through its partnerships with four Division 1 Conferences—the Atlantic 10, Big South, Colonial Athletic and Atlantic Sun. They may npot outfit the higher level men’s basketball or football programs yet, but they take advantage of underserved Olympic programs to provide gear, NCAA-approved energy bars and an extensive leadership program that rewards academic and athletic performance. The company does the same with over 500 high schools across the country, a list that is growing at 30 percent each of the last four years.
Still, the crown jewel of exposure for Crons, or any brand is the NCAA Torunament, and for the fourth straight year the Crons brand will make it to the dance. This year, the second straight, Crons is the official outfitter of Big South Champion the University of North Carolina Asheville, and the Bulldogs will be sporting new uniform designs in their Thursday afternoon matchup against top seed Syracuse. last year Asheville won their first round game and then gave Pitt a scare in a Friday afternoon battle as well, with the exposure for Cavanuagh’s company doubling with each national appearance.
The previous two years, Crons rode the wave of the Robert Morris Colonials into the tournament, making the upstart brand one of only three companies…the others being powerhouses adidas and Nike…to make an NCAA appearance each of the last four years. This year they again join Nike and adidas, as well as Under Armour and Russell Athletic, as the only five apparel brands in this year’s field.
“We are very proud of working with Asheville, as we are with all the schools we work with on every level,” Cavanaugh said. “Our business has grown on word of mouth and the hard work of our sales staff, as we are not fully a consumer brand yet, but the fact that we have our energy bars in hundreds of retail stores as well as the exposure the NCAA’s gives us is a great boost for our brand. We are looking forward to Thursday, even more so because it is in a building where we have a large presence, the Consol Energy Center.”
That presence in Pittsburgh is bolstered even more by another Crons partnership, one with the hometown Pittsburgh Penguins. In September Crons became the “Official Motivational Brand” of the Penguins, outfitting the teams youth programs as well as selling merchandise and energy bars in the team’s retail locations. That partnership was also unique, and has led to even more exposure in the NHL community. “The Penguins have been a great partner of ours, and have given us a chance to expose our work to an audience which may not have experienced our product in a gym or on a college campus, it is another new line of business that is very strong and with a big upside for our company.”
Still the biggest upside could come from Thursday and an upset for UNC Asheville against Jim Boehim’s Orangemen. Regardless, just being among large retail brands for Crons is another step in the right direction for a budding company and its highly motivated, and successful CEO and his team.