Uniqlo Co. is using sponsorship to build presence in the U.S. market.   

The Japanese casual wear designer, manufacturer and retailer plans to open 18 stores by the end of the year, up from the 21 stores it currently operates. The majority of stores will be located in new markets: Boston, Los Angeles and the southern New Jersey/Philadelphia area.

Uniqlo also plans to open its Chicago flagship store in fall 2015.

The company also is expanding its presence in San Francisco. Uniqlo plans to have 10 stores in the Bay Area by end of year, up from seven currently.

Uniqlo is using sponsorship to build local presence. The company last month announced a partnership with the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco and in June announced a tie with the Red Sox Foundation.

And additional deals may be in the works in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and other markets. Uniqlo this month will open three new stores in Los Angeles and the second of four new stores planned for the Philadelphia region. 

Uniqlo uses sponsorship to accomplish five primary objectives:

  • Demonstrate community involvement
  • Promote product attributes
  • Create new clothing lines
  • Drive store traffic
  • Engage employees

Using Sponsorship To Support Corporate DNA
Uniqlo uses sponsorship to support its “Changing clothes, changing conventional wisdom and change the world” tagline by focusing on ties that support the local community.

“Our partnerships are about getting into local communities where our customers live and shop. We’re not interested in writing a check to see our name on a donor list,” said Jean Shein, Uniqlo USA director of CSR.

“Our mission is to change the world and improve people’s lives on a daily basis.”

Case in point: Uniqlo leveraged the Red Sox Foundation through a tie to the nonprofit’s Red Sox Scholars, around which it donated $150 gift cards to 250 Boston Public School students for a back-to-school shopping spree.

The students used the gift cards to make purchases at the Uniqlo pop-up store at Faneuil Hall Marketplace. Uniqlo opened its first store in Boston last weekend and plans to open five more stores in the market by spring 2015.

Uniqlo USA kicked off its sponsorship push in 2013 with a multiyear deal with the Museum of Modern Art, a property located near its flagship store in New York City. The partnership affords title of the museum’s free Friday night program.

The company activates the tie with a line of MoMA-inspired T-shirts, outerwear and other products marketed under the SPRZ NY (Surprise New York) brand. The line includes apparel inspired by Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and other artists whose pieces are on display in the museum. 

“The sponsorship brings conversations to life among people interested in art and brings it to people who may not have access to it,” said Eileen McMaster, Uniqlo’s vice president of public relations and internal communications.

Uniqlo launched the clothing line worldwide on March 28. The company showcases the apparel on a dedicated floor in its New York City store. It also sells the apparel in the MoMA Design Store and through www.MoMAStore.org.

Uniqlo also designed uniforms for MoMA security staff.

Uniqlo is using its partnership with San Francisco’s Exploratorium to bring science to the masses. The company is sponsoring the museum’s free access days, a program it has expanded from five to six days.  The additional day will provide 7,000 more people access to the museum.

Uniqlo was drawn to the Exploratorium due to the museum’s reputation in the Bay Area and shared values of innovation and discovery, said Shein.

The Exploratorium first pitched the museum’s After Hours events as a platform to reach young adults who live and work in the Bay Area.

“They said ‘no, we want to engage people who might not otherwise make it to the museum,” said Barbara van Dillen with Van Dillen Partners, the Exploratorium’s corporate engagement agency.

Uniqlo will activate the tie with an exhibit in its Union Square store in downtown San Francisco. From Sept. 15 through Nov. 2 the store will host a wind tube exhibit where customers can learn about the effects of wind resistance, gravity and airflow by experimenting with various sized pillows made from the same feather down pockets in Uniqlo’s signature Ultra Light Down jackets.

“The exhibition is an educational and fun way to celebrate the key properties of one of our signature items,” said Shein.

Uniqlo also will distribute 700 advance free day tickets at its Bay Area stores while its employees will serve as junior docents on the free days.

Expands Global Portfolio With International Tennis Federation
Uniqlo this year inked a three-year partnership with the International Tennis Federation and the ITF’s wheelchair tennis properties.

The sponsorship builds on an endorsement deal with Paralympic champion Shingo Kunieda.

“The partnership goes back to our philosophy of changing the world,” said Shein, noting that Uniqlo is the largest employer of the disabled in Japan.

The deal affords title of the ITF Wheelchair Tennis Tour and Wheelchair Doubles Masters and sponsorship of the NEC Wheelchair Tennis Masters.

Uniqlo also has endorsement deals with pro tennis player Novak Djokovic, pro golfer Adam Scott and other athletes. Uniqlo earlier this year launched a clothing line with Scott while Djokovic sports Uniqlo apparel at this week’s US Open tennis tournament.