Polo, one of the oldest sports in the world – also referred to as the “Game of Kings” – is full of thrills, teamwork, technique and true sportsmanship. The first recorded games in history were in China and Persia and the very first polo club of modern times, the Silchar Polo Club, was established in 1859 by British officers stationed in India. Finally, in 1876, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., wealthy New York Herald newspaper publisher, brought polo from England to New York where he helped establish the Westchester Polo Club, the first polo club in America. The United States Polo Association (USPA) was then founded in 1890 to establish rules, guidelines and handicaps for play. It is, in fact, the second oldest governing body of sport in the country, just behind baseball.
Today the game is played at an intense high speed, requiring peak athletic conditioning of both horse and rider. Around the world, the level of play and the amount of polo being played continues to generate global expansion in participation and spectatorship.
As the official brand of the USPA, with the purchase of any U.S. Polo Assn. product, customers own a piece of the sport of polo and its legacy. U.S. Polo Assn. takes its design inspiration from its authentic connection to the sport of polo, and the look of U.S. Polo Assn. encompasses more than 130 years of tradition, heritage and classic American styling.
Alongside our distinguished board of directors, the vision is to continue to build U.S. Polo Assn. as a global brand that, despite the challenges facing the entire retail industry amid the global pandemic, continues to grow its retail business and drive awareness of the sport of polo worldwide.
Bridging the Brand & the Sport
Through the U.S. Polo Assn. business, the retail brand serves as a long-term revenue source for the USPA, which works with some 200 polo clubs across the U.S. and Canada. Additionally, the brand works with many international clubs including Copenhagen Polo Club in Denmark, Cowdray Park Polo Club in the UK and Korean Polo Country Club in South Korea.
In the U.S., the 2021 GAUNTLET OF POLO® season kicked off in January at the International Polo Club (IPC) in Wellington, Florida, the “Winter Equestrian Capital of the World.” The “best of the best” teams competed on the U.S. Polo Assn. Field 1, culminating in the prestigious U.S. Open Polo Championship® in April. In the end, Team Scone was victorious over Park Place with champion Adolfo Cambiaso playing his ninth U.S. Open ─ this time alongside his 15-year-old son, Poroto Cambiaso.
The Championship game and pre-show were broadcast on CBS Sports, beIN Sports and Eurosport and were seen by some 6.5 million viewers around the world. Equally as exciting was the launch of our own production and broadcasting entity, Global Polo TV (GPTV), as the premier destination for live and on-demand polo and lifestyle content worldwide.
Equality: On and Off the Field
U.S. Polo Assn. and the USPA collaborate to promote equality both on and off the polo field. One interesting fact about the sport of polo is that it’s a co-ed sport, with women and men playing on the same field together. Most people don’t realize that polo is one of the only sports where female and male athletes can compete with, and against, each other at all levels from youth and collegiate to professional. Female players not only represent a large percentage of players, but also include the fastest growing segment of the sport in the United States.
Our Emmy Award-nominated television show, Women in Polo, produced in-house, took an in-depth look at inspirational and fearless female polo players. The show was released in conjunction with U.S. Polo Assn.’s “USPA Inspire” Women’s Initiative, a global brand campaign celebrating female polo players and supporting other important women’s initiatives.
Marketing, Innovation & Brand Growth
Alongside product, it’s U.S. Polo Assn.’s marketing and digital arms that drive the retail business. Advertising campaigns featuring global photo shoots provide sport-inspired and fashion content worldwide. In 2020 U.S. Polo Assn. was featured in the official programs for Super Bowl LIV and the Grammy Awards. Being part of these two celebrated events was just incredible and provided great opportunities for U.S. Polo Assn. to reach new consumers.
We continue to build global momentum on U.S. Polo Assn.’s social media, exceeding 6 million followers worldwide, and continue to partner with top influencers in key countries around the world to engage global consumers with fashion and sport. The combination of increased elevated content and new partnerships continues to play a major role in driving the brand’s awareness and consumer advocacy.
U.S. Polo Assn.’s digital strategy was well underway in 2020 with the momentum of its global digital site uspoloassnglobal.com, but we significantly ramped up efforts to accelerate our digital presence as the global pandemic temporarily closed stores. Fast tracking digital has resulted in more than 30 brand and e-commerce sites to date, with a global site that’s now accessible in 10 different languages across nearly 30 different countries. As a result, U.S. Polo Assn. saw a more than 100 percent increase in global online shopping in 2020, with this rate continuing through 2021.
U.S. Polo Assn. is also using in-store technology and innovation to further connect the brand and our customers to the sport of polo. The new High Goal/High Energy store model references polo competition at the highest levels. We have also created experiential programs inside retail stores such as selfie stations with polo backdrops and live streamed polo games. These are all ways to bring consumers closer to the brand.
Product Development & Sustainability
This year, U.S. Polo Assn. celebrated Earth Day 2021 with the official global launch of USPA Life™, the brand’s holistic and long-term sustainability program that includes significant global product initiatives. We are engaging our licensee partners around the world and working on sustainability practices and goals, but USPA Life is a marathon, not a sprint. With the expanse of our business, our long-term commitment to improving the environment is expected to make a meaningful impact over time.
The USPA Life products and packaging currently available include polo shirts and other apparel made from high quality recycled yarns and sustainable cotton; denim produced with yarn made from recycled water bottles; and some packaging and hangtags produced from recycled materials. We want customers to know the item they purchased was made with materials and processes that are ultimately better for the environment, including production methods that reduce water waste and/or environmental pollution.
Brand Philanthropy: Giving Back
Philanthropy has also proven powerful for U.S. Polo Assn. Specifically, a portion of the brand’s revenue goes to the ongoing, non-profit operations of the USPA which includes tournaments and events, player development, club support, rules and player handicaps. U.S. Polo Assn. also supports meaningful polo-based initiatives such as injured players, equine welfare and the history of polo. In its ongoing effort to support the USPA in its mission to continue the legacy of polo, U.S. Polo Assn. also supports intercollegiate and interscholastic polo.
The global brand also sponsors polo games around the world and contributes to related charities including the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge’s Royal Charity Cup, Sentebale with the Duke of Sussex, Polo Africa, Queens Cup Pink Polo in Thailand, Manipur Statehood Day in India and the Susan G. Komen Women’s Polo and the Annual Collegiate Partnership Program in the U.S. just to name a few.
Giving back is at the core of our mission and is ingrained in our brand’s DNA. Whether it’s donating to local hospitals at the beginning of the pandemic, to giving back to children’s charities in the U.K., or helping to prepare student athletes for their future in the sport of polo, we have continually invested in the many communities where we live, work and play polo.
The Future of the Brand
In partnership with my leadership team, I remain optimistic that through continued partner/licensee support and consumer-focused initiatives online and in-store, U.S. Polo Assn. will continue to build on its authentic connection to the sport and its momentum as one of the largest sports licensors in the world.
In the most unprecedented time in our history, we’ve been able to meet the challenges and overcome them with strategic vision and aggressive execution. I’m certain that our authentic, philanthropic and sport-inspired U.S. Polo Assn. brand will continue to prevail globally, for the long-term.
J. Michael Prince, President & CEO of USPA Global Licensing
J. Michael Prince is President and CEO of USPA Global Licensing, the worldwide licensor of the U.S. Polo Assn. brand. Michael and U.S. Polo Assn. have been featured in WWD, Fast Company, Forbes, Yahoo Finance, Entrepreneur, Palm Beach Illustrated, Modern Luxury, Coastal Lifestyle, Retail & Leisure International, License Global and on Cheddar TV. He has also been a guest on a variety of leading business and industry podcasts. With a diverse and distinguished career in retail and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, Michael has held leadership roles at some of the top sport and lifestyle brands in the world. He served as President & COO and Board member at Cole Haan and prior to that as Chief Operating Officer of Guess Inc. Michael joined Guess Inc. from Nike, Inc., where he held various roles including Chief Financial Officer of Converse, Inc., a Nike subsidiary and Chief Financial Officer of the Nike Affiliates division.
Today, Michael provides executive leadership overseeing the iconic sport-inspired U.S. Polo Assn. brand. U.S. Polo Assn. is the official brand of the United States Polo Association (USPA), the nonprofit governing body for the sport of polo in the United States and one of the oldest sports governing bodies, having been founded in 1890. With a multi-billion-dollar global footprint and worldwide distribution through some 1,100 U.S. Polo Assn. retail stores, department stores, sporting goods channels, independent retailers and e-commerce, U.S. Polo Assn. offers apparel for men, women and children, as well as accessories, footwear, travel and home goods in 180 countries worldwide. Recently ranked the fifth largest sports licensor in License Global magazine’s 2020 list of “Top 150 Global Licensors,” U.S. Polo Assn. is named alongside such legendary sports brands as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.