Master Class

3 Lessons on Branding with Lacoste’s Grégoire Brasset

It’s one of the most recognizable logos in sportswear. A hunter green reptile with a fiery red tongue that’s brandishing its fierce tail.

Written by Ross Vernon Dias

And, “the Croc” is only slightly more iconic than the surface it frequents.

Made of cotton piqué with a two-button spread collar and ribbed wristbands, the Lacoste polo is so exemplary of a style of dress, it was featured in the recent exhibit at the MoMA, Items: Is Fashion Modern? A question that would befit Réne Lacoste, who sliced off the sleeves of his tennis gear to create the modern polo.

Now, in it’s 85th year, the brand has a lot to celebrate, like recent collaborations with streetwear brand Supreme and creative agency M/M Paris, as well as staying relevant for eight and a half decades.

We spoke to Lacoste Canada’s Vice President Grégoire Brasset to learn three lessons on cultivating an iconic brand.

Grégoire Brasset, vice president of Lacoste, in the house’s white cotton polo shirt.

Your brand means different things to different people:

Lacoste is one of the biggest sportswear brands in France, but in North America the customer doesn’t know where to place us. The market and brand perception is completely different here. There are also differences in perception of the brand geographically within Canada. In Quebec, we’re seen as a classic and classy brand, known for our woven-shirt polos. In Ontario we are perceived as athleisure with technical polos and t-shirts, and in Western Canada, we’re youthful and trendy. This is why it’s interesting to understand the type of markets your product is in, and to understand you have not only one marketplace, but different markets.

Take advantage of your brand’s historical value, (but don’t forget to innovate):

Our roots in sport are still very important to us. Our founder, René Lacoste, was a great tennis player who won tournaments like Wimbledon and Roland Garros, the French Open. It was he who invented the polo shirt when he decided to cut the sleeves off the woven shirts they wore on the courts at the time, to ease his movement. A move that would change the game forever.

Both Lacoste’s wife, Simone Thion de la Chaume and daughter, Catherine Lacoste, were champion golfers. Even if the consumer may know the Lacoste croc, they don’t necessarily understand the historical significance of where we are coming from. In our newly renovated store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre that will open this year, we want to focus on the customer experience to close this gap. For the first time in our brand’s history and in the spirit of Lacoste’s innovation, customers will be able to personalize their polo shirt for free with colour, initials or a flag.

Bring the past into the present:

An advertising campaign featuring designs by Réne Lacoste and Novak Djokovic.

We’ve collaborated with Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic to design a collection of tennis gear, in the spirit of Réne’s Lacoste’s original designs. Eighty-five years into production, Lacoste’s core tennis and golf-wear line remains the core pillar of its portfolio, though we went through the different decades with different stories. And for us, it’s very important to continually reinvent our story. Our story is sport, but it’s also different iterations from the eighties, nineties, or sixties. We have such a vast history that transcends generations, which we’ll continue to share and reinvent, just as Réne Lacoste once did.