Editor’s Note: Adrenaline has released a couple of big promotional pieces over the last couple of weeks, and with all this movement and information, we thought it was important to get a little deeper, instead of just throwing up quick PR posts, so we spoke with Xander Ritz, to get the full scoop. In the interest of honesty and disclosure (it’s important!), Adrenaline is an LAS partner.
Judging by the info graphic you guys sent over, the last year has been a BIG ONE for you. How do you follow up a year like that? And can stringing together a couple of years like that really take the company to the next level in terms of brand awareness both inside, and outside, of lacrosse?
It has been an awesome year. I think we’ve quietly been having great years for a while, but we’re now feeling the effects of having back-to-back great years, and expect to continue on this growth trajectory. We’re also just doing a better job telling people about what’s happening at Adrenaline. We will keep focused on what we have been doing, growing quickly but carefully, and with great partners. Staying mission focused, not being distracted by the noise (good and bad) that accompanies growth is also important.
We are, at our core, a lacrosse brand. So our focus has been and will be on servicing the lacrosse community with great events and great apparel. We have recently established “All Fight, No Flight” as our tag line and it really resonates with our team and our athletes. I personally love it. It is truly what we’re about: we have been all about fighting for the western player, and as we’ve grown, fighting for the lacrosse player as a whole.
The design team at Adrenaline is unbelievable. The way they have applied some of the contemporary but classic designs to the performance product has people really fired up. A lot of performance product in our sport has lacked authenticity. I’m not sure where some of these fading trends were established but they haven’t perpetuated the qualities in a lacrosse player that we all know exist. Lacrosse players are aware of style but don’t make it an overbearing part of their game or their life. Our design team is all over it and I think the product coming out this fall and next spring has just enough edge to be cool, but the timeless simplicity that establishes the athlete as just that, an athlete first.
It’s always cool to see non-lacrosse people gravitate towards the product. As a brand we stand for something and that comes through at the events we run, through the people who wear the product, and the way it’s made. Seeing people from outside the sport recognize that and want to be a part of it is definitely reinforcing. But we remain focused on the lacrosse player and the lacrosse community, first and foremost.
When I look at your “Adrenaline Essentials” closet, another graphic you’ve released, I see a lot of Adrenaline apparel obviously, but I also see a lot of other apparel and gear from inside the small lacrosse world. Is there an advantage to teaming up, and working with partners, instead of trying to do it all on your own? Will that continue in the future, and is it a trend we will see more of in the lacrosse world?
I think the essentials concept Parker Anger (VP of Brand) came up with is brilliant. We are definitely not trying to do it all on our own and I don’t think our partners are either. Every mature sport, action or team, has competing brands in the same space, from sponsoring athletes to supporting events. Our LXM ATS events are a great example of that; events where you have multiple brands who operate in the same category participating as sponsors. Now we’re seeing athletes like my brother and Peter Baum following in Kyle Harrison’s foot steps: they have sponsors who cross over, in STX and Adrenaline, who both make soft good product, but they are hard good endorsed by STX and sponsored by Adrenaline for soft goods.
The cumulative marketing effort positively impacts both brands, even if it requires sacrificing a bit of the brand exclusivity we saw in the sport’s early years. It’s a model that you see working in tons of other sports. The essentials series is just honest; I think that’s the best way to describe it. We make great product, but so do other people. For example, Levi’s makes great product, that’s just a fact, and Converse are hands down one of the most timeless and cleanest casualwear shoes of all time. To pretend those products aren’t part of our daily lives would be dishonest.
The same realities apply to the club team space where you see some really first class groups starting to work together and draw some lines in the sand where competition for territory stops and collaboration begins. It’s great to see, and I think it will help enhance the quality of the product for kids and families all over the country. I think we’ll see a lot of that in 2014.
Does any of the above play into how Adrenaline operates as a company internally? I saw that you’ve been posting jobs recently, so what makes Adrenaline a “great place to work”? Is it a place where you can work your way up from the bottom?
I mean, for starters, our headquarters sits right by the Coronado Island Bridge, so you’re literally in downtown San Diego and a 5-minute drive from some of the world’s best beaches. We have an office full of people who are passionate about lacrosse, and growing the sport the right way; almost all of the employees have played the sport at some level. The energy they bring to the table daily is what drives the brand forward and many of the people at Adrenaline have been there for years and continue to take on more and more responsibility as we hire young talented staffers. So without question, there is a great culture of internal promotion and a place where almost everyone has started by stringing cages or stocking shelves. You can see why we have really taken to the “All Fight, No Flight” line.
There is a great energy that comes from a group of people who believe in what they’re doing and share a common vision. There is also something unique about being at a startup that is growing quickly and from a business perspective experiencing success, but also making a difference in thousands of kids’ lives. We embrace the responsibility we have when working with so many young people and it is at the center of every conversation we have in the office, quality of experience and quality of product. When you have as many people in one building who share that same interest and focus as we do at Adrenaline, it creates a pretty awesome work environment that doesn’t really feel like work.
The LXM is visiting 8 states this year, and some states are getting multiple stops. Why did you guys add on the new locations that you have? Could we see some more “northern” expansion in the near future? What makes a location ideal for an LXM event? How much does the local community’s involvement come into play?
We’ve changed the way we chose markets as the event series has grown. Local support is huge. We have heavy-duty brand ambassadors on the ground in almost all of the markets in which we’re hosting events this year. So local community involvement is hugely important. We also look for great venues that can host an event as big and as unique as the LXM ATS events. There are some real challenges associated with operating in different markets every weekend. In addition to the LXM ATS series we have some major recruiting events and smaller more local tournaments.
With so much going on we can’t afford to just throw darts at a map and hope it works out. Local partnerships are key and we’re fortunate to be in a position to offer a lot to a local partner and not need a ton in return. There are very few organizations that we wouldn’t partner with. The idea of bulling into a market and thinking we can impose our will on the local community is just fundamentally inconsistent with what we’re trying to do and what we think is going to be best for the sport.
We are far better positioned to support local organizations and in turn have them help support the events we host in their markets. With that said, I’d love to see more event activity happening in the north but we have had such amazing support in the cities that currently are on our map it’s hard to ignore. As we prep for our 2014 expansion I think you’ll see both some new markets and some new partners. But I don’t want to get too far out ahead of myself here in August.
HUGE thanks to Xander for the in-depth answers! If you’re a small business owner or operator in the lacrosse space, this is a must read!