Team GB athlete on sportswear brand startup

Wednesday 09 February 2022 19:18

Lorraine Ugen created her Unsigned brand after failing to attract a new endorsement deal despite competing in the Tokyo Olympics last year (Photo credit: John Neapolitan)

British athletics star Lorraine Ugen is launching her own self-funded sportswear brand, Unsigned, for athletes without a sponsorship deal.

World, European and Commonwealth Games medalist Ugen wants the label to highlight the growing number of athletes who do not have sponsorship deals.

The long jump and sprint specialist, 30, also hopes the fledgling business can top up her UK Sport funding, which does not cover all of her training and competition expenses.

“There are so many world-class athletes who don’t have a contract. I want to raise awareness about this,” Ugen said. AM City

“I want the brand to take the stigma away. He wants it to be like a movement, a statement, a way for people to feel like they have a community if they’re not signed.

Ugen came up with the idea for Unsigned after being dropped by sportswear brand Spyder during the pandemic when she looked set to miss the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to injury.

She recovered faster than expected and competed in her second Summer Games, but this attracted no sponsors who were even willing to give her a free training kit.

So Ugen created Unsigned, designing and helping to sew and print the first batch of sports and leisurewear herself, which she showcased on social media this week.

The enterprising Londoner is now outsourcing production and setting up a website so she can sell her new range beyond her current clientele of friends.

“I had the idea for a while but sat on it for fear of whether it would work,” said Ugen, who won the 4x100m relay gold at the Commonwealth Games for England in 2018. .

“I suppose [I did it] because I haven’t signed for a year. I was living off my savings account and needed to generate income.

Ugen realized she was not alone when she saw many elite athletes launching crowdfunding pages to solicit donations.

“I wanted to create a brand so people could support me but get something in return,” she said.

“There are a lot of athletes who are unsigned. A lot of people have been dumped during the pandemic. Sometimes people are unsigned and they’re too embarrassed to say anything.

“So they will continue to carry a mark. It will come off as if they were [signed] but they are not. And I didn’t want to go that route.

“I want to make sure it’s clear: I’m not signed; I don’t have a contract; I’m available so if anyone wants to sponsor me, I’m here.

Ugen's Unsigned range includes leisure wear as well as athletic kits
Ugen’s Unsigned range includes leisurewear as well as athletic kit (Photo credit Olu Olamigoke/IG: @olumide.co)

Ugen launched Unsigned herself but, as she seeks to bring the brand to a wider audience, she is open to investment.

If the project works as expected and highlights her lack of endorsement deals, she could find herself pitching deals from the brands that snubbed her.

In this scenario, she could accept a shoe contract, since she doesn’t design her own, or seek a collaboration between Unsigned and a bigger brand.

“I hope to stay under my own brand and take control of my own destiny,” she said.

Although she has teamed up with a new sponsor, Ugen intends to maintain her new label as a business interest and for other athletes.

“I want to build a brand so other athletes behind me don’t have to worry about how they’re going to make money,” she said.

For more from Unsigned, follow @unsignedsport on Instagram.

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