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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Nike Lacrosse

I am not the only new thing coming to lacrosse this season. Much like hockey in the early 1990s, the sport of lacrosse is seeing a massive increase in interest and participation. This attention has led both Adidas and Reebok to introduce gear in the last couple of years. Although the companies are one and the same, their lacrosse products are completely separate. Every expert says that the Reebok gear is far superior and on par with traditional companies like STX and Warrior. Reebok also has greater exposure as the exclusive sponsor of the indoor NLL.

Now perennial sporting goods powerhouse Nike is entering the fray. It seems they are not satisfied with their place as the number one producer of sporting goods and apparel; perhaps it is the rapid catch up by the combined Adidas/Reebok. As a result, they are now entering the world of lacrosse. Sure, they have been making bags, uniforms, and shoes for years, but now they are producing the essential gear - gloves, pads, heads, and shafts.

Of course they are following their entry into the hockey industry by using an established company to produce their stuff. Back then it was the purchase of Bauer that brought them to the ice; now it is a cooperative effort with STX. STX is well known for its high quality equipment and big name players Gary Gait and Kyle Harrison (both STX lines were supposedly designed by Nike). It also happens that Harrison endorses Nike footwear. Nike has also signed one of the legendary Powell brothers, Ryan.

When Nike put Bauer up for sale earlier this year, they cited its lack of growth (undoubtedly hurt by the NHL strike) as the primary reason. They said they wanted to focus on expanding markets - specifically soccer - which prompted them to buy Umbro. Behind the scenes, they latched onto the other fast growing sports, lacrosse. Traditionally an East Coast rich white kid sport, lacrosse has spread like wildfire across the US (Denver leads the MLL in attendance) and attracts an increasing amount of nontraditional players (Harrison is black). It is also the only sport to feature a Native American team in its international competitions (the Iroquois Nationals). It has jumped across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and competitive teams come from England, Scotland, Germany, Australia, and many others. Bermuda even has a very competitive team!

Nike saw this potential and grabbed hold. It is clear they are aiming at people similar to those I am aiming at - new players from new areas. People that are new to a sport tend to gravitate toward equipment companies they already know. This undoubtedly lead Reebok, Adidas, and Nike to Lacrosse while preventing New Balance from renaming Warrior upon their purchase. Will it work? Probably. Reebok bought The Hockey Company (CCM, Koho, and Jofa) and the RBK lines are among the top sellers in US. Nike's hockey products consistently flew off the shelves and Warrior is making a killing in hockey as well. While lacrosse and hockey are similar, they are different, so maybe Nike's strategy will fail. Their premium prices (usually about $15-30 more than equivalent products from STX) will not help much. Time will tell...

Here are their Huarache gloves,

Vapor arm guards

and shoulder pads,

Dunk head,

and top of the line shaft, the Sprint.

How do they look?

Tribe 7