Editor’s note: We here at LaxAllStars.com are proud to announce Adrenaline Lacrosse as a key 2014-15 brand partner. What follows is an unfiltered interview between Jeff Brunelle, CEO and Founder of Lacrosse All Stars, and Parker Anger, VP of Apparel & Branding at Adrenaline, about the growth of the brand and its remarkably popular Adrenaline lacrosse socks.
I was first introduced to Adrenaline Lacrosse back in the summer of 2003 in Salt Lake City. Scott Hochstadt, a 3x All-American at the University of Maryland and Major League Lacrosse all star, was headlining a camp affiliated with University of Utah, BYU, and the local retailer in the area. Hochstadt carried himself with a poise that all the young players – most of whom were new to the game - quickly flocked to and tried to emulate.
I’d made the five hour trek to the lacrosse camp with two high school buddies from Bishop Kelly in Boise, and we were on the verge of our Senior year. We had only started playing lacrosse back in the eighth grade, and truthfully we’d always been football players first.
Hochstadt’s presence at the camp, to us, meant the world. We had never had the unique opportunity to rub shoulders with a pro, nor learn the game from someone so knowledgable and experienced. Thanks to his brief influence and the head coaching staffs of Utah and BYU, what resulted from the camp experience was the three of us releasing we could have a future in the sport post-high school. We spent the road trip back to Boise daydreaming about playing lacrosse at colleges like Utah, Oregon, and Colorado State in the MCLA and unraveling our understanding of the game.
For me, that trip to SLC is huge highlight from my early lacrosse career as it helped define my roots within the game. It was the beginning of a new chapter for me, and coincidentally, I found Adrenaline’s Victory logo on the t-shirt I’d bought at the camp store as the symbol of my newfound passion for lacrosse.
Fast forward several years of lacrosse, education, and experience, and I’ve been watching Adrenaline Lacrosse evolve ever since. Every day since the first day I realized I could have a future in the game of lacrosse, the Adrenaline brand has had an effect on me. I suppose that’s why I am so excited about partnering up with them and getting to know the guys behind it!
One of the most integral members of the Adrenaline Lacrosse team since the beginning has been a very talented fellow named Parker Anger. Behind a table, under a tent, Parker made magic happen for the Adrenaline brand day-in and day-out at the pop-up camp store touring with Hochstadt.
If you’re like me and you’ve been in this game for a while, then certainly you already know a little bit about Adrenaline and the impact the company and its subsidiaries like Starz and LXM PRO have had on the growth of the sport. I’ve always wanted to hear more about how the company started and where the ideas, like lacrosse socks, came from.
Often times small businesses keep their product mix limited in order to focus on the advancing of one special product, and as I learned from Parker, that’s kind of how the never-ending Adrenaline lacrosse socks fad all started.With the recent launch of Adrenaline’s new STRIFE Technical Sock and MLL STRIFE Game Socks being worn by every Major League Lacrosse team for the first time tonight, there’s no better time to get to know the company through the words of the chief sock engineer himself.
What follows is my unfiltered interview with Parker Anger.
JB: What came first, the idea for Adrenaline Apparel or the idea for Adrenaline Socks? How did socks become an early focal point of the business?
Adrenaline Apparel definitely came first. At the time, Adrenaline was regarded as a camp business and we made merch to support it. It could hardly be called an apparel line back then but we had some hats, tees, and a few pieces of outwear. As with many young brands, we all wore many hats…figuratively speaking. Alex Cade was out coaching, Steve was cleaning the field probably while handling the back end ops, Hochstadt would be shaking hands and kissing babies while getting ready for his shooting demo and I’d hold down the camp store. I loved working in the store because it was the best place to interact with the players who came from regions all over the west. Besides being fun it was an organic, revolving focus group that brands pay a lot of money to manufacture. It was in the camp store, at the very first summer camp back in 2001 when we realized we had potential as a brand. Kids from all regions went nuts over the victory logo. At that point, players were relatively new to the sport but like everywhere else, became instantly passionate about it. These players were not pre-disposed to lacrosse brands and largely wore surf and skate brands. Adrenaline filled the void and combined the sport they quickly grew to love with the aesthetic they were used to wearing.
We slowly built the apparel portion of the brand via grassroots, our own events, and in our stores out west. We went a few years with out considering socks as a product and continued to focus on new and innovative graphics and designs. We hadn’t considered making the wholesale jump either until we received a call from Lax World asking to sell some of our products. Immediately the light bulb went off and we started to create distribution channels with wholesale accounts.
For one of our winter seasons I was developing some beanies at a local San Diego knitting company. I was walking through their facility and noticed they were knitting socks. At the time they were doing The Hundreds and it caught my eye. I asked to see some of their other samples and noticed really amazing brands like Oneill and Quiksilver making pretty cool, albeit basic crew socks. I had them make us a sample combining a few features from various surf and street brands. Obviously we knew these socks would have to stand up to abuse a little bit better than your basic street sock. Lacrosse players play hard and we had to make some changes to these socks to make them functional while still being extremely comfortable. We used the mesh upper for breathability and kept the bottom of the foot really cushiony. We also used a blend of acrylic and spandex for the top part of the sock so there was no slippage. The knitting guru they had working there nailed it with one sample and the Black Carlson sock was born.
Here’s a quick look at the Spring 2014 lineup:
What day was the first pair of Adrenaline Socks manufactured? What was your go-to market strategy at the time?
In the early stages of the brand, we definitely did not have “go to market strategies”. In hindsight though, we did what came naturally and it seemed to work. We gave product to our friends, influential players & teams and let it spread virally. The brand and logo already had a following and combining that with the quality and comfort of our sock was the key recipe. Of course, Players have been expressing themselves with socks since the beginning of the sport but we may have been the first lacrosse specific sock which certainly helped our quick growth. As the growth took off, demand exceeded supply very quickly and the socks became hard to get. While I fielded calls from angry retailers and customers because they couldn’t get their socks, we also learned an early lesson…a lot of people want what they can’t have. At the time, we called it “The Wii Phenomenon” because Nintendo had done something similar and people were freaking out trying to get Wiis. I assume Nintendo’s go to market strategy was a little more strategic than our’s but there was a modestly similar affect at the time.
How many pairs of ADRLN socks have been manufactured to date? How many players and teams are wearing them? What is the best selling pair? (Any statistical info would be great. Estimates are fine. Can keep confidential if noted.)
I would guess that we’ve produced 4million pairs of socks since we’ve started making them. I don’t have specifics but it’d be interesting to dig deeper for this info. There is obviously a clear correlation between sales and # of socks so I may want to keep that confidential but we could think about another way to represent the volume. I could have the art team put together some infographs if you’d like. I’ll include geographic info, sock style charts and some other fun stuff. Let me think about what would be interesting.
What was early customer feedback like? How has customer feedback helped guide sock releases and overall product lines over the years?
As I mentioned, direct customer feedback is literally how the brand was born. Seeing the excitement on the player’s faces or lack of excitement some times is a recipe that we will never stop using. We were very fortunate to work with a great sock manufacturer who nailed the product out of the gates. The feedback on the socks specifically, was resoundingly positive. I’m not just saying this because I’m involved in the brand but I’ve never worn a more comfortable sock. That was the main thing we heard and realized very quickly comfort is our #1 focus when producing new socks.
What is your position on the current “sublimated socks” fad? Will ADRLN get into that? Why/why not?
My guess is the sublimated sock fad is more than a fad. I think when people hear “sublimated sock” they assume it has to be something super crazy, which isn’t necessarily the case. Sublimation is still very new in the apparel industry and isn’t going anywhere, in my opinion. The designs could change from sort of arbitrary “one upping” of craziness to more clean and classic but the idea of it is not going anywhere. People are figuring out how to do it cheaper and faster which will allow for more personalization, which is huge. We’ll be rolling out some sublimated socks for the Adrenaline Tropics this year. Also the new Strife Technical socks we made for the MLL will have their logos sublimated on the front.
What is next with the Adrenaline Sock Game?
Adding Technical socks. We’ve spent a lot time in development the past year and really wanted to come out with the perfect sock to play in. The agreement we made with the MLL put the right type of pressure to produce the most technical sock available in the industry.
We knew we couldn’t sacrifice comfort that the Adrenaline sock has been known for since the inception. Comparatively speaking we see a lot of technical socks out there that end up feeling dry and don’t stretch appropriately and aren’t really comfortable to wear for long periods of time. This sock was designed with the top players in the world in mind and wanted to make sure as the original lacrosse sock provider we produced the best lacrosse sock in the world and we feel that we’ve done that. At the end of the day we hope this trickles down to our most loyal customers—the little groms that rock our socks with pride even though the heel goes up their calves and the top of the socks almost reaches their knees! That reminds me that we’re coming out with youth socks with three different sizes, which is another thing that we’ve been working on for quite some time. We’re super excited to introduce these socks in the near future. The MLL will be wearing our Strife sock in their next game and we are proud that the best players in the world will be the first to wear it. The following weekend the top high school players in the country will be wearing it at the Adrenaline Black Card recruiting event. Like I keep mentioning, we’re really proud of what we’ve created and can’t wait to get them out there.
For more about Adrenaline Lacrosse, visit ADRLN.com.