Macron, an Italian company that was previously making sports apparel for other brands, is growing rapidly under its own brand of teamwear while expanding geographically, starting a new retail project and moving out of its core business in football and basketball to do more in rugby, volleyball, handball and baseball.

The company has just announced a three-year deal with Edinburgh Rugby under which it will be the technical sponsor of the Scottish team from the start of the 2010/11 season, replacing Rhino. It is already the sponsor of Neath RFC in Wales and of three Italian rugby teams.

Macron also announced last week that it will be sponsoring a major Italian volleyball team, Tonno Callipo Volley, for the next two seasons, replacing Erreà. It will join ten other first-division volleyball teams sponsored by Macron in Italy, Spain and Portugal. Like with its other sponsorship contracts, it says it will seek to tell the story of the club in the clothing, which will feature special cuts and inserts to maximize comfort and performance.

Based near Bologna, the company started off as an OEM manufacturer in 1971 and launched its own brand in 2001, when it became the sponsor of two first division Italian teams, Bologna FC 1909 in football team and Benetton Basket for basketball. It has since signed up two other Italian first division football teams, Naples and Cagliari, and other important teams in the rest of Europe. Naples was previously sponsored by Diadora.

Relatively new on its portfolio are the AS Monaco football team and three others in the U.K.: West Ham, Charlton and Millwall. They have been added to the sponsorships of Sheffield and Leeds in the U.K., RCD Mallorca in Spain and Sporting Braga in Portugal.

Macron also sponsors about 15 other major clubs in other team sports, but its core business consists of supplying kits for more than 7,000 amateur teams all over Europe. In this sector, Macron competes directly with two other Italian companies, Legea and Erreà. Older than Macron and with a wide international distribution, especially in neighboring emerging markets such as Albania or Romania, they had sales €52 million and €35 million, respectively, in 2008, according to our Italian market research report.

Gianluca Pavanello, chief executive of Macron, feels that his profitable company will soon take over the leadership from Legea. He is eyeing a turnover of €45 million in 2010, up from €36 million in 2009. An official of Legea said his company had stable revenues in 2009 and was predicting a slight decline for this year, but added that it was working on a more aggressive new image that should take the company back to growth next year.

Italy still represents about 60 percent of Macron’s turnover, but the ratio should decline in the next few years. Some of Macron’s growth will come from the opening of new single-brand stores and shop-in-shops in Italy and the rest of Europe – especially in France, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the U.K. A well-known former Italian female volleyball player, Maurizia Cacciatori, has been designated as the icon of Macron’s retail development project.

While Legea started opening its own stores in 2005, and it now has some 150 in operation, including franchises, Macron’s retail project started this year. Sixteen units have been opened in the last six months in Italy, France, the U.K. and Greece and the total network is expected to reach 50 doors by the end of this year and 300 in three years’ time. This is on top of about 1,500 stores throughout Europe that sell Macron’s range. In some cases, the stores are run by multi-brand retailers that already do a good job with Macron.