When Lionel Messi was pictured posing in Bee Inspired gear, the Scottish sportswear brand was the envy of their competitors around the country and beyond. But, more recently, it was co-founder Mark Corcoran who was left feeling a tinge of jealousy watching Castore complete a multi-year deal with Rangers.

Boasting the likes of Messi, Luis Suarez and Phillipe Coutinho as fans of their clobber, Corcoran and fellow Bee founder Steven Robb - teammates together at St Mirren - could not have wished for more ideal free publicity than the trio donning their logo on social media.

Still, a £25million contract might have felt slightly better. Bee Inspired and Castore share a number of similarities, one of the reasons Corcoran was left kicking himself, to an extent, that he and Robb didn't think about football kit sponsorship first. Given the two are former professionals with plenty of Premiership experience between them at the likes of Hamilton, Dundee and Partick Thistle, the businessman admits it would be the perfect match.

"The Castore deal is something we would have loved to have done," Corcoran told Herald and Times Sport. "Rangers are a massive football club and to be associated with them in that way is really good. I don't know the ins and outs of any deal like that and it's not something we had previously looked into, but being former footballers and now a clothing brand, it's something we're jealous of.

"I can only imagine it being very good for both parties. I don't know much about Castore but they're obviously doing very well if they can sponsor a club like Rangers. It's great for them and hopefully it works out well for both parties.

"Being an ex-professional footballer I think it's our competitive nature that we want to do these things, we want to be the best and make the best product. We would love to do things like that. Obviously it would be within reason, but that's why we've brought in a financial director, to help us move forward and build that sort of business plan, put these ideas in place. It's something we'd love to do, we aspire to do what Castore have done. Fair play to them.

"I read their story and it did remind me of ourselves a little bit. I think they went around factories looking for a manufacturer and they put in a lot of hard work to get where they are. I really appreciate that because I know how difficult it is, so I've got nothing but respect for them. I am a bit jealous because I'd love to be sponsoring a club like that. From a football background, we had players in our kit which was a great thing, so it's something, if we could in future, that would be amazing."

While they may not have thought of the idea themselves any earlier, Corcoran is adamant they would consider the move into kit manufacturing if they found a club and it made sense. "I don't know much about how a deal like that would work but I'd imagine it'd be about making money off shirt sales and things like that," he added. "If we could do something like that and it was mutually beneficial, we'd love to do that. Having that sporty feel to the brand I think it would be good.

"Our online presence is massive now and having that relationship with a football club or a sportsperson would help us on the street with our stores. It's definitely something we'll look at in future."

Founded in October 2013 by the two pals, it's difficult not to compare Bee Inspired with Castore - run by two brothers in Thomas and Phil Beahon. Another company, clearly, with high ambitions and serious aspirations to challenge the biggest brands in sports. The latter point was clearly laid out by the Beahon brothers when Tom challenged the likes of Nike and Adidas after completing the Rangers agreement.

Corcoran, though, is happy to walk before he can run and is setting more realistic targets for his brand. "International is something we're really pushing right now," he said. "The UK is probably about 60 percent of our business and internationally it's around 40 percent. That's what we're focusing on in the next year or so, really growing internationally.

"Nike and Adidas are massive companies. We'll start off setting smaller goals, try to better ourselves. There are a lot of fantastic brands out there you can take influence and inspiration from. Castore are one, Gymshark another. Nike and Adidas you look at, but we just like to focus on ourselves and be in competition with ourselves. Can we be better than before? Can we make a better product? That's what we'll focus on and we'll try to grow the business that way."

The coronavirus pandemic has hit businesses around the world and Bee Inspired are no different. One aspect of life as businessmen, compared to life as professional footballers is that Corcoran and Robb are no longer simply cogs in a machine. They are now bosses, responsible for employees with families. With around 30 staff in marketing, shipping and warehouse workers, the UK government's furlough scheme has been vital to the company staying afloat.

Even for the most experienced company owners, COVID-19 has hit hard. For relative newbies like Corcoran, the duty of care to his staff has taken some getting used to in trying times. But he feels he and Robb are coping as best they can. "We've had to take advantage of the furlough scheme unfortunately," he added. "Some office and warehouse staff, that's really the area that has been affected. The marketing and customer service we've managed to let them work from home but the warehouse and office staff we've had to be very careful about what we're doing and having too many people in the building at the one time.

"It's quite stressful because you have a responsibility to your staff. Then you're trying to keep the business going, growing and in a difficult period. Steven and I are new to business and we've sort of rolled with it, all the decisions you have to make are difficult enough. But going through something like this at the same time, it's been tough."