Dollar signs. Are Brine, STX and Warrior making them? I don’t have a glimpse into their books in the current economic environment, but my gut feeling says no. Dealing with a classic “new kid on the block” scenario probably doesn’t help. Especially since the new kid is big and was the star quarterback at the other school.
Why would Nike enter a lacrosse market whose biggest brands aren’t making any money? Brine and STX have been involved for a long while, building loyalty, releasing better, sleeker products each year. But their growth is dependent on the growth of the game, and that is why they will eventually fail. Nike’s growth is completely independent of the growth of lacrosse. The weight Nike throws around will be too.
I think it’s important to put some perspective to the kind of weight I’m talking about. Without breaking a sweat, Nike Lacrosse could get distribution in EVERY major and minor sports retailer in the country. They could out market, out advertise, out research + develop, out quality, out SPARQ and straight up out perform any of the other brands in this space. Brine, STX and Warrior execs must be trembling in their boots at this sleeping giant.
Nike’s biggest impact on the game won’t be a direct result of the inevitable bucketloads of money they throw at the game. It will come from the one thing that I would lose sleep about if I was working at Brine. Their brand awareness.
Nike is one of the most respected and aspirational brands on the PLANET. They share honors along with Apple, Sony and Coca-Cola in terms of awareness, respect, and straight up LOVE. Love is crucial for a brand in this day and age. Just ask Kevin Roberts. I definitely don’t believe that brand awareness alone is enough to spell success, at least not for every sport. But Nike is coming into the equation at a crucial moment when the sport is young, and the youth ranks are growing at a high rate.
Share of Voice
At 14, when I started playing lacrosse, I had a choice of two brands. Brine and STX. I had no prior knowledge of either brand, so I went with the lower priced brand at the time.
Fast Forward 13 years. Some other 14 year old is starting the game. They have choices too, but this is what the shelf looks like: Brine, STX, Warrior, Reebok, Nike, Adidas, Maverick, Gait and more. I don’t think you have to be a genius or marketer to know which they gravitate towards. Think about it this way. When your shopping for HDTVs, Dynatec and Insignia aren’t exactly in your top consideration set are they?
It’s no surprise to me that Nike hasn’t yet leveraged their bank accounts and exploded onto the lacrosse scene with a major presence. Fact of the matter is, they already have one. Nike is banking on their existing brand awareness to drive the success of their (admittedly expensive) products. With minimum spend in equipment development cost, marketing and awareness building, they can bank on their existing retail distribution and team sponsorships to immediately get into the consideration set of new lacrosse players. With minimal effort, Nike will be alongside Brine/STX/Warrior in stores with limited shelf space. That’s scary for those old gents.
However, within the potential success of Nike lies opportunity for Brine/STX/Warrior. One thing Nike doesn’t want to do is dilute their brand identity. They will never go low cost. I believe this for the same reason I’ve predicted there will be no iPhone Nano. Like Apple, Nike’s philosophy is that they want to be the best at what they do, build the best product. There is no room to introduce mediocre products with that kind of a philosophy.
There is a huge market (especially right now with the economy in the shape it’s in) for the low end. Given our previous discussions on the high-entry cost for the game of lacrosse, Brine and the other companies have a huge opportunity to build loyalty with new lacrosse players on the low-end. Although 14 year olds will be attracted to Nike gear, the reality is that they most likely won’t go there right away. Brine can’t compete with Nike’s aspirational brand identity, but it can hope to build loyalty early in a lacrosse player’s career.
Minimal Investment, Maximum Benefit
So we’ve concluded that Nike has brand presence, they have opportunity and they have loyalty. We need to remember that like the innovation I see changing the game of lacrosse, it won’t be because someone spends more or spends faster. The Brine/STX/and Warriors of the world simply can’t compete with Nike’s existing loyalty and brand identity regardless of either parties’ financial commitment to the game. This is why I predict that in 5 years, Nike will be the largest lacrosse equipment supplier in the country
Feel free to take my predictions with a grain of salt. They are based purely on conjecture and caffeine (which is stimulant behind my best thinking). Lord knows I want Brine and STX and Warrior to see success. But regardless of my brand loyalty, my truest loyalty remains in one place.
With the game of lacrosse. That means I want Nike everywhere, and once they start seeing the ROI, they will invest more. More money = more fans; but you know that whole story.
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