CES: SOL Republic headphones hoist heroes higher

Athletes, musicians forge symbiotic relationship with brand

SOL Republic is using superstar athletes, such as Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, to promote its line of headphones.

Before every race, as he’s making his way to the starting blocks, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps blasts Afrojack and Steve Aoki’s “No Beef.”

It’s his go-to pump-up song before hitting the water like a torpedo. What Phelps is listening to the song through, though, is starting to generate a lot of attention for its maker, SOL Republic.

At last year’s Summer Olympics, in London, Phelps wore a different pair of the company’s colorful headphones with interchangeable headbands before each race.

And that exposure has turned Phelps into one of the company’s 190 Saviors of Sound, an army of celebrity brand ambassadors for SOL Republic that range from Aoki to up-and-coming rapper Alexander Spit.

Phelps initially approached SOL Republic, the brainchild of consumer electronics vets Kevin Lee, Scott Hix and Seth Combs that stands for Soundtrack of Life, to sport the headphones during races.

The company leapt at the opportunity, given SOL Republic’s missionary-esque approach to business.

“We really wanted to engage with influencers in the lifestyles that kids cared about and to engage with them and see what their thoughts were on the power of music,” said Lee, co-founder and CEO of SOL Republic and veep of corporate strategy at Monster Cable Products. “We focused on the DJ community initially, but we knew that we would circle back to regular artists in other music genres — and also include action sports as well as mainstream sports.”

The resulting impact of Phelps wearing SOL Republic resounded heavily with the young company.

“(London) was an extremely pivotal moment, because with the Olympics you have everybody watching it — from the 12-year-old kid to the 78-year-old grandparent — and everybody’s seeing the same thing,” said Combs, co-founder and chief marketing officer of SOL Republic. “We really reach that hardcore music fan from 15-28, but after (the Olympics) we got a huge onrush of people from all ages.”

The now-16-month-old company tapped Aoki to be its first Savior of Sound: “(Aoki) encapsulates all the positive things around the music genre: he doesn’t smoke, drink or party; all he does is work,” Lee said.

Aoki inked with SOL Republic before the company was officially announced, but going with Aoki set the tone early. Next came 100 more Saviors of Sound, ambassadors who would share the power of music to promote quality-sounding headphones in the realms of music and sports. A recent high-profile recruit is Joel Thomas Zimmerman, better known by his stage name Deadmau5.

“For (SOL Republic), we need to find the right fit,” Combs said.

SOL Republic had to wait for face time with Phelps, but after Blighty’s Summer Games, the Olympian sat down with the team and voiced his thoughts on music in a video, which can be found on SOL Republic’s website.

“For me music has been a part of my life every step of the way,” he said. “I have headphones on at all times, I’m always listening to music … it helps me get away, helps me relax.”

Lee, who got his start at Monster, is no stranger to the headphone world, having helped launch the Beats by Dr. Dre brand of headphones.

Citing the poor quality of competing headphones, Lee said: “We had a true passion to save sound, and Beats was our biggest effort to prove that concept.”

Popular on Variety

More Music

  • Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Takes Beatles' 'White Album'

    Monkees/Badfinger/Nazz Supergroup Gets Back to '68 by Touring Beatles' 'White Album'

    The 50th anniversary re-release of 1969’s “Abbey Road” may be just days away, but that doesn’t mean Beatles fans have been there and done that when it comes to celebrating ’68. Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz, Badfinger’s Joey Molland and several other name musicians of a certain vintage are teaming up to go out [...]

  • Rob Cowan, Greg Silverman'The Conjuring 2'

    Greg Silverman’s Stampede, School of Rock Team for Unscripted Series (EXCLUSIVE)

    Former president of Warner Bros. Pictures Greg Silverman is partnering with School of Rock through his content creation company Stampede. The collaboration with the music school will create exclusive content, starting with the development of an unscripted series.  School of Rock operates a network of performance-based education franchises that offer students of all ages guidance [...]

  • 'Downton Abbey' Music Gets 'Bigger, Better,

    As 'Downton Abbey' Hits the Silver Screen, the Music, Too, Gets 'Bigger, Better, Grander'

    When “Downton Abbey” fans hear that familiar strings-and-piano theme, a Pavlovian response ensues: Get to the television immediately, because you don’t want to miss a minute of the addictive Crawley family melodrama to follow. This week, with the “Downton Abbey” movie reaching theaters on Friday, fans can’t wait for their fix of Lady Mary and [...]

  • Saweetie

    Saweetie's 'My Type' Is a Smash, but Is it Too Provocative for Top 40?

    Saweetie’s “My Type” is a smash. The high-energy, up-tempto, bad bitch anthem has proven to be an undeniable force. Having won the hearts of TikTok users, radio (rhythmic, urban and now Top 40, logging more than 81,000 combined spins, according to Mediabase) and streaming, where BuzzAngle Music records 160 million U.S. streams to date and [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Peter Coyote Riffs on 'Country Music' and How He Admires and Challenges Ken Burns

    Though an instantly recognizable face from films such as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “A Walk to Remember” and “Erin Brockovich,” it is Peter Coyote’s voice — a coolly authoritative baritone with a Zen master’s holy roll — that has endeared him to documentary lovers and makers. Alrhough director-writer Alex Gibney used Coyote’s wisened narration for “Enron: [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Reaches Deal With Record Labels on Music Videos

    SAG-AFTRA has reached an agreement with the major record labels on a three-year successor contract to their music video agreement. The union announced Friday that the deal achieves important economic and safety gains for performers working in music videos. Details of the new agreement will not be released until after it is reviewed by the [...]

  • Album Review: Samantha Fish’s ‘Kill or

    Album Review: Samantha Fish’s ‘Kill or Be Kind’

    At a time when rock music remains in a deep recession — to put it politely — there are few more encouraging sights to see than a badass, slide-guitar-wielding female from Kansas City lobbing some blueswailing rock and roll. That’s exactly what Samantha Fish has been serving up for the better part of a decade, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content