The sign of a healthy economy, corporation, or sport is robust competition. Competition arises when there are opportunities to make a profit and subsequently leads to higher levels of growth. This is what drives the U.S. economy and capitalism across the globe. Over the last several years, it is clear that lacrosse is currently going through this positive business cycle. As a result, companies are beginning to compete for market share in lacrosse and are spurring unprecedented levels of growth. This is a positive development for the sport and will put pressure on each other to innovate in order to succeed.
For years, lacrosse was dominated by two companies, Brine and STX. The sport was largely limited to the East Coast, specifically Maryland and New York. Financially, lacrosse had limited growth potential and minimal demand to accommodate multiple companies. As the sport expanded across the country in the 1990’s and into the public school systems, the demand for more and better equipment increased. The result was opportunities for profits never been seen before in the sport. What would ensue was an infusion of companies eager to reap the profits and the innovation of a modern line of lacrosse gear. New companies emerged (Warrior, Maverick, Gait, Harrow) and existing companies added lacrosse divisions (Nike, Reebok, Adidas), which has led to a new era of business competition in the sport.
Lacrosse has a standard set of equipment, which is unlikely to change very much. This poses a problem for companies trying to leave their mark. It puts a mandate on companies’ research & development teams to improve the current equipment. This is challenging, but when a company is successful, the profit windfall can be quite large. The two most obvious examples are Brine’s “Edge” offset head and Cascade’s oval-shaped helmet. Both revolutionized how sticks and helmets were made and were the result of risk taking, investment, and ingenuity on behalf of their company’s management; all key components to any successful company. As a result, Brine became the leading producer of lacrosse heads and Cascade became synonymous with helmets, while driving other companies out of business by ending the era of the “box shaped helmet”.
Successful companies that have stood the test of time and are consistently at the top of their particular industries are the ones that lead the way in product development. Product development is something that must be maintained and continually invested in. If not, other companies will eventually adapt these new technologies, steal market share, and drive outdated companies out of business or to the bottom of their particular industry (see Polaroid’s Camera business not being able to counter the digital camera era or the recent bankruptcies of General Motors and Circuit City). One of the most important aspects of the United States economy is that it is built on the premise that unsuccessful companies are allowed to fail. This is important because it clears the system of outdated or poor companies and allows new ones to fill the gap. In the case of lacrosse, almost all heads are now offset and many helmets have the sleek look of the Cascade helmet. Companies that did not adapt are no longer in business.
In the growing market of lacrosse, marketing is the other key component of the business. What would Nike be without the “Swoosh”, Apple without its “PC versus Mac” commercials, Subway’s “Jared Campaign”, or Under Armour’s “Protect this House” slogan. Each does not introduce a revolutionary new product. Rather, they promote their brand in a unique way. Companies spend a lot of money on marketing departments in order to expand their brand and separate themselves from the pack. Whatever path a company chooses, it is an upfront investment for long term gains.
Investment and advances in product development and marketing are the result of increased competition. If competition did not exist, there would no incentive to create anything new or different. Competition keeps people on their toes and continually striving to be the best. It helps drive new ideas, better products, and ultimately fosters stronger growth. Companies will thrive, others will fail, but that is the essence of capitalism. Ideally, the companies that do not survive are the ones that failed to innovate, market, and compete. With all the lacrosse companies trying to get a piece of the profits, only time will tell which ones will become the next corporate titan and which will become the next “flash in the pan”.
Teddy Lamade played midfield at the University of Virginia from 2000-2004 where he was a part of the 2003 National Championship and captained the 2004 Team. He went on to finish his final year of eligibility at Georgetown while completing a masters degree in international affairs where he completed a thesis on the Invasion of Iraq and it’s Consequences. He is currently working at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York City on the fixed income rates desk dealing with a variety of products including government bonds, high grade corporate issuance, and mortgages. He writes about the business of lacrosse monthly for LacrossePlayground.com.
dig this guy. always insightful