When Michigan State ended Kentucky's quest for an undefeated record on Tuesday night, the founders of the Wildcats-themed website 40and0.com feared their burgeoning t-shirt business was obsolete only three games into the season.
Much to their surprise, they were wrong.
More than 25,000 people visited the site in the 36 hours since Kentucky's loss, by far the biggest spike in the site's month-long history. So many orders have come in for t-shirts with "40-0" emblazoned on the chest that the site's creators are considering whether or not to have another batch printed in order to meet the demand.
"It's absolutely mind-boggling," founder David Son said Thursday afternoon. "We're selling more T-shirts than we were before, and the crazy thing is we aren't doing anything to promote the site. Some of the guys I'm working with do social media for all kinds of companies, a dentist, a law firm, everything. They're like, 'This is insane. We don't get this kind of traffic.'"
The explanation for the sudden sales surge lies in the shipping addresses of the customers who have purchased shirts since Tuesday night. There have been an unusually high rate of purchases from residents of Louisville, Michigan, Kansas and North Carolina, suggesting that the T-shirts are going to rival fans interested in poking fun at Kentucky's quest for a 40-0 season ending 38 victories short.
"I think they're Louisville fans, I think they're Michigan State fans, I think they're North Carolina fans," Son said. "People love to hate the evil empire. If you're not a UK fan and you're not from the state of Kentucky, you hate Kentucky. And if you're a Kentucky fan, you love being hated."
The idea to launch the site and create the T-shirts struck Son after he heard John Calipari say that a 40-0 season was one of his goals. Though no college basketball team has gone undefeated since Indiana's 1976 national title team went 32-0, Calipari mentioned taking aim at 40-0 after winning the 2012 national championship and again after wrapping up his ultra-talented recruiting class last spring.
"We’re chasing perfection," Calipari said in May. "We’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing things that have never been done in the history of our game. What I like about that, people say, ‘Pressure!’ Man, pressure brings out the best.
"Now, I’m not sitting there saying, ‘If we lose a game, it’s not a successful season.’ No. But you’re chasing greatness. What’s wrong with that?"
For Son, the purpose of launching 40and0.com was to create something fun for his fellow Kentucky fans and make enough money to pay for him and his buddies to attend the Final Four in Dallas this April. Son and his partners sold hundreds of shirts during the past month for $14.95 apiece, hawking them outside Kentucky football games, at Big Blue Madness or in Lexington-area bars during games.
Many of Son's friends asked if he was worried an early loss would turn his side business into a drain on his savings, but he said he was careful never to have too large an inventory of shirts. Plus, he and his friends planned to change the site to SeeYouInDallas.com just before Christmas in order to begin selling "See You in Dallas" shirts.
Now, Son is considering moving up the order date on the "See You in Dallas' shirts in order to capitalize on the traffic surge the site is experiencing. He has even had Louisville and Michigan State fans ask if they could order the "40-0" shirts in red or green.
"I've got some people on my team who were like, 'Should we do this?'" Son said. "I said no. I'm not going to do this to sell a few t-shirts to some Cardinals fans."
The requests still drew a chuckle out of Son just because they were so unexpected. He knows the spike in interest in his site is probably temporary, but it's a far better outcome than he anticipated from Tuesday's loss.
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