Trends & Features

United Sports Brands prides itself on innovation and sustainability

United Sports Brands Europe is a collection of the unique brands Spalding, McDavid, Shock Doctor, NATHAN and KT Tape, all dedicated to providing athletes best-in-class sports performance and protective products.

They are a global leader in sports performance and protective products designed to help athletes perform at their personal best.

Their products are often the number one choice for athletes around the world who demand support, performance and protection and their goal is to develop innovative products that will exceed the expectations of our athletes and customers.

Patrick Cloots was instrumental in the formation of United Sports Brands and has been in the industry for over 30 years.

Patrick said: “I set up United Sports Brands in Europe seven years ago. It was fathered out of a merger between two companies, Shock Doctor and McDavid. So, we joined each other owned by an investment fund. The question was what are we going to call ourselves? Shock Doctor McDavid – McDavid Shock Doctor. Instead of causing a fight, we called ourselves United Sports Brands. I came out of the McDavid side, where I founded the office in Europe 22 years ago. Before that I worked for New Balance and others. So, I’m already 33 years in the industry.”

The United Sports Brands family includes:

Spalding – The world-famous basketball and baseball brand

McDavid – which designs and markets sports medicine, sports protection and performance apparel for active people and athletes

NATHAN – creates purposeful running accessories to help athletes train and compete with more ease and comfort

Shock Doctor – their complete line of mouthguards offers multi-layering, custom gel-fitting, lower profiles and lighter weight mouthguards with innovative designs that don’t compromise protection while making it easier to breathe and speak.

KT Tape – has revolutionized the sports medicine industry with the introduction of the most advanced and recognized kinesiology tape and recovery products.

United Sports Brands prides itself on innovation and sustainability

United Sports Brands is a global company with many strings to its bow.

Patrick said: “We have top quality brands and we stand for innovative and performance products. So, mainly, we are a US-based company with headquarters in Fountain Valley, California. We have a quite big team of product developers. That’s actually what we are, we make innovative high-tech products.

“What we’re really aiming for is to help the athlete, professional or amateur, to keep on going in sports and protect themselves. All our brands are world leading. McDavid is the number one brand worldwide in sports, medicine protection. Shock Doctor is the number one brand in mouth guards. NATHAN is one of the top three brands in running accessories, while KT tape is the world leader in kinesiology tape and Spalding is the world’s leading brand in basketball. So, we have a nice collection of brands really, which are the lead in their niche. And the reason why is innovation and top-quality products.”

The quality of the brands speaks for themselves and the marketing can often take care of itself.

Patrick added: “A lot of the top players around the world either wear a Shock Doctor mouthguard or they wear McDavid. NBA players, Premier League and Serie A goalkeepers to handball and volleyball players all use our products. And that’s the nice thing, they all buy the product, we don’t have to sponsor them because the quality is so high. If you go to trail running or marathon, you see a lot of NATHAN items because it’s also a top-end product.”

Despite the reputation of the products, United Sports Brands still have to educate retailers on the benefits of stocking their products.

Patrick said: “A lot depends on the focus of the retailer. Often in these categories for the retailer, sometimes they are a little bit ignored. So, we have to show them how they can be very profitable for their business.

“With mouthguards, Chris has to do a lot of clinics for stores to show how they could sell more. Often, they go for the cheap and cheerful. But we can offer them a better best line. And that’s a little bit similar with all our brands, we still sometimes have to try to convince the retailer about the categories, how profitable they are for their business. You never have to do a discount, it’s a continuous space, just showcase it, the consumer will recognise it and come back to their store.”

United Sports Brands prides itself on innovation and sustainability

United Sports Brands has several ways to train retailers and their staff about their products.

Chris said: “We go into stores and we also use online training. But what we try and do is have that educational piece done through the buyers and the merchandisers at the top and then give stores excellent POS and packaging. We also have education around PR and marketing to support it as well. So, we try and aim for the consumer to go into stores with a good enough understanding about the brand and be able to see the packaging and the POS to make that decision themselves.”

The future looks good for Shock Doctor as they continue to lead the way with innovations in the market.

Chris said: “We’re working on more protective products or protective ranges. I think an area we’ve identified as not being serviced very well is women’s specific products.

“There’s a big growth of women playing contact sports, particularly rugby and martial arts. So, we’re looking at how we can provide a range of products that’s completely suitable and designed with women in mind.

“Also, there is a lot of concern regarding head contact and concussion in rugby now. We’ve linked up with Australia company HITIQ who have developed an electronic sensor which goes inside the mouth guard, for both professionals and the consumer market.

“We want to set the Shock Doctor mouthguard range apart so customers can see there’s a product for them, regardless of the sport or the budget. We hope they look at our products and go ‘Oh, wow, there’s a great story there, I’ll buy the medium to the better quality one’, because they see we’re a quality brand. Mouthguards aren’t necessarily an interesting thing for people. So, we want to make the brand appealing and aspirational. We want kids to love the design and packaging and parents to know that Shock Doctor stands for quality and it’s got a warranty.”

United Sports Brands is taking the issue of sustainability very seriously and is looking to cut the amount of plastic packaging they use as well as being environmentally friendly throughout their business.

Patrick said: “We want to be more environmentally friendly, reduce the use of plastic as much as possible and be more sustainable going forward.

“The process goes from the factory to the retailer and the end costumer. All our factories we put on a special audit, so they must produce as environmentally friendly as they can. Also, the message from upper management is to look for sustainable materials. So, we are looking at alternative products for all our ranges. It’s a big process and we are hiring an environment sustainability manager.”

And it’s not just empty words on the environment from United Sports Brands. They have already begun to give back and design innovative products throughout their ranges.

Patrick added: “Two years ago, we developed a bottle for NATHAN and we contributed 20 per cent of that revenue for clearing plastic out of the oceans. These things are very important to the company. Especially with brands like NATHAN which are used outdoors. For example, in the running vests there is special storage to put your garbage in, such as gel tube and food wrappers.”

As a business, they are not resting on their laurels and are in the process of acquiring cycling brand PEARL iZUMi, which ties in well with their running brand NATHAN. They are also continuing with their sustainability and environmentally friendly message.

Patrick said: “PEARL iZUMi is our latest acquisition, which includes apparel, shoes, socks and accessories for biking. As a speciality company with innovative products cycling was a missing branch for us. PEARL iZUMi is one of the three top brands in the world, so we add a special brand to our portfolio, which also fits very nicely to the NATHAN brand. There is a lot of integration between biking and running apparel. What we do for NATHAN we could also now do for PEARL iZUMi.

“PEARL iZUMi brings in a lot of knowledge in apparel, especially sustainability apparel, because they do a lot of recycled stuff. So that’s again in our strategy of how we can be a better sustainable company going forward.

“There are messages on their shirts about offsetting the carbon footprint made in the manufacture of the product. For example, you need to bike 120 kilometres to offset the footprint of this shirt or that short. We’re also going to take that to the NATHAN range.”

United Sports Brands prides itself on innovation and sustainability

Looking ahead, Patrick wants the business to grow to be one of the biggest players in the world.

He said: “Our ambition is very clear, becoming one of the top houses of brands in the world. We are very ambitious. We have a lot of big competitors such as the Amer Group and Pentland Group. We want to find our own place between these groups. But we will continue to be innovative, pursue sustainability and always make demonstrable better product than anyone else.”

Looking specifically at the UK market for Shock Doctor, Chris has high hopes for the brand.

He said: “We are open for business. Hy-Pro had the brand for 15 or 20 years and it was good for Shock Doctor. But we’re ready now to move it on to the next stage. We’ve got this portfolio of brands now. So, it’s not a case of just going in with Shock Doctor, we can offer a full range of products, across multiple categories and different departments. It’s really exciting, we’ve set the office up in a way that we can service the UK very efficiently. So far, setting up accounts, pricing and service has been very, very good. So, we’re ultimately ready to go. So yeah, it’s exciting.”

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