HOMAGE's Easton store. HOMAGE’s store at Easton Mall in Columbus tells stories through a curated set of memorabilia as well as their products. (HOMAGE.)

Sometimes, the secret about funding is that it’s not just about funding. (With apologies to Isiah Thomas and Bill Simmons.) There’s a big difference in taking money from a company no one has ever heard of versus taking it from a company that has notable overlap with your company and ability to advance that investment themselves. And a case where that’s shown up notably recently is with apparel brand HOMAGE and Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort Investments.

The Maximum Effort name itself is a reference to a line from the 2016 movie Deadpool, starring Reynolds. It’s also the name for the film production and digital marketing group founded by Reynolds and former Fox marketing executive George Dewey in 2018. . And the company has used Reynolds’ celebrity and his acting skills in a variety of ways, from ads to promote the Deadpool movies to production work on everything from Deadpool 2 to Free Guy to projects not involving Reynolds like Spirited to the Welcome To Wrexham docuseries on Reynolds and Rob McElhenney’s ownership of Welsh soccer team Wrexham AFC.

Maximum Effort also has a linear channel on Fubo TV. And they’ve created ads for both Reynolds-owned (at the time) brands like Mint Mobile and Aviation Gin and other brands like Match.com and Peloton (where they made an ad with Sex and the City‘s Chris Noth in reaction to his on-screen death in the And Just Like That… sequel). All of that illustrates how getting Reynolds and Maximum Effort Investments on board as a lead investor (a move HOMAGE announced last week) is about more than just the funding. And, via email, HOMAGE CEO Ryan Vesler told AA that was key for his company when seeking investment.

“When we were looking for a lead investor, we wanted a partner who could provide more than just capital,” Vesler said. “We connected with Maximum Effort and realized they were a perfect fit. First of all, we have a shared mission – both parties have a deep passion for storytelling, sports, pop culture, and bringing people together.

Vesler said Maximum Effort’s passion for those spaces HOMAGE works in stood out.

“This eliminates a lot of friction you might expect working with an investor. As we look to expand – whether that be through investment, partnerships, collaborations or more – we strive to align with those people, athletes, and organizations who share our core values. With Maximum Effort, we know they will support making choices that are true to the brand.”

He said the experienced figures involved at Maximum Effort will help too.

“On top of that, Maximum Effort brings an amazing team of experts in marketing, product development, and technology that will be excellent partners for HOMAGE. They’ve worked with other brands to help bring them to bigger, national audiences, which is where we’re heading.”

A collection of HOMAGE licensed products.
A collection of HOMAGE licensed products. (HOMAGE.)

In a release on this, Maximum Effort head of sports Ricky Engelberg said “HOMAGE exists to tell stories that move people – one t-shirt, one hoodie, and one Starter jacket at a time. At Maximum Effort, this aligns perfectly with our mission of bringing people together in smart, fun, unexpected ways.” Vesler said that storytelling focus is key for HOMAGE.

“Our mission is broader than T-shirts – we exist to bring people together, and help them pay HOMAGE to things they care about. Stories are a great medium to do that. When we design new product, we start with the story we want to tell, and then design it onto a piece of apparel.

“We have inspiration sessions and dig into archival material. We try to learn everything we can about our partners and what makes them unique. The cuts are deep and that is by design. We want them to appeal to the super fan who is looking for something that goes beyond the basics. Maximum Effort gets this. We are likeminded in our commitment to quality storytelling.”

Barry Sanders in the HOMAGE G.O.A.T jacket.
The HOMAGE X STARTER G.O.A.T. VARSITY JACKET Barry Sanders wore to the 2024 NFL Draft in Detroit. (HOMAGE.)

Vesler said the investment here is about boosting HOMAGE further and scaling it up.

“Over the last few years, we’ve built a lot of strong foundational elements to our business. We’re confident in our product, our partners, and the love that our customers have for the brand. We believe we’re ready to take HOMAGE to an even bigger audience, and investment will help us do that.

“We’ll need the capital to expand production capacity, grow our team, invest in technology, and expand our licensed business. It was also a logical next step in the ongoing evolution and growth of our company, and we’re thrilled to have found Maximum Effort Investments as the partner to help us get there.”

HOMAGE CEO Ryan Vesler.

Vesler said there are plenty of things the two companies can do together, and they’re just starting to figure out what those can be.

“Given Maximum Effort’s capabilities and the passionate team we have at HOMAGE, we see no shortage of opportunities. Now that the partnership is official, we’re just starting to discuss what to do first. Our focus is on finding the best ways to expand awareness of the brand, whether it’s new products, new modes of storytelling, or new partners to help spread the word.”

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.