Sales of spring-loaded basketball shoes skyrocket after NBA ban
Adam and Ryan Goldston designed their spring-loaded basketball shoes with the elite player in mind, hoping their products would eventually be worn and endorsed by the likes of Andrew Bynum and Blake Griffin.
But it was only when the NBA banned their $300 shoes on Oct. 19 because they might give players a competitive advantage — they’re supposed to instantly improve vertical leap—that sales “went through the roof,” the 23-year-old twins from Los Angeles say.
“We sold more shoes the day they were banned than we did in the previous month, and that repeated daily for the rest of the week,” Adam Goldston said.
“It went crazy. We expected it to be a big story, but nothing like this. We sold out size 13s, and a lot of other sizes are on the verge of selling out. We went through a month’s worth of stock in a week.”
Was the NBA ban a stroke of luck, or marketing genius?
“Probably a little bit of both,” said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. “I thought it was fascinating. Can you get a better marketing shot in the arm than the authority in the sport saying your product is advantageous?”
“We were transparent with the NBA — we told them everything — and they concluded that someone wearing our shoes would have a competitive advantage,” Ryan Goldston said. “It’s the ultimate validation. It proves the shoes we created really work.”
They won’t for NBA players, nor will they for college teams that have other apparel or shoe contracts. But that’s OK with the Goldstons, who helped Van Nuys Montclair Prep win the 2005 Southern Section 4-A basketball title and made the 2005-06 USC team as walk-ons.
There are plenty of gym rats who would gladly shell out $300 for sleek-looking high-tops that could be the difference between getting to the rim and dunking on a playground adversary, between getting scored on and swatting a shot away and proclaiming, “Get that weak … out of my kitchen!”
The twins’ fledgling athletic shoe company, called Athletic Propulsion Labs (APL), received what amounted to a ringing endorsement from the NBA without having to pay the millions of dollars it would cost for an NBA star to endorse its shoes.
“We created the shoe for the serious basketball player, but now we’re definitely attracting recreational players,” Adam Goldston said. “While the 450 best players can’t wear our shoes, millions of others can.”
Adam and Ryan were children of the athletic shoe industry. Their father, Mark, a former president of LA Gear and current marketing chief for Reebok, is credited with creating the Reebok Pump and LA Gear’s lighted shoes. The twins were often product testers.
“Our two passions were always shoes and basketball,” Ryan said. “We always wanted to play at the highest level, but Adam and I are not the tallest or highest-jumping guys out there. We could get up, but not like Vince Carter or anything.”
The twins did everything they could in high school and college to improve vertical leap, and when they started their company in March 2009, shortly before their graduations from USC — Adam with a degree in communications and sociology, Ryan with a degree in business — they focused on shoes that would help people jump higher.
“We knew we needed something to differentiate ourselves,” Ryan said. “We needed something with a unique selling point.”
The result was the “Concept 1,” a shoe that features what the Goldstons call “load-and-launch” technology. A thermo-plastic urethane shank down the center of the shoe absorbs shock and redistributes energy to the forefoot. The more pressure on the shoe, the more spring it provides.
“It acts like a diving board,” Ryan said. “When you walk on the board, nothing happens. But when you get toward the end of the board, energy propels you upward.”
The twins swear they did not draw inspiration from the 1995 “Seinfeld” episode called “The Jimmy,” where a character wears goofy training shoes that supposedly improve vertical leap.
“But after we created the shoe, a bunch of people posted their recollections of that episode on our site, so we went back and watched it,” Ryan said. “It’s pretty comical.”
The twins say the shoes were tested last January by two professors in a biomechanics laboratory at a West Coast university, though they declined to name the testers or the school.
Fourteen students were measured for vertical leap — running and standing still — using both the Concept 1 and a “leading brand of high-performance shoe,” Ryan said. Students wearing the Concept 1 increased their vertical leap by as much as 31/2 inches.
When the NBA notified APL last week that its shoes would not be permitted and issued a statement that “under league rules, players may not wear any shoe during a game that creates an undue competitive advantage,” the Goldstons pounced.
They sent out a news release stating that the NBA banned their shoes, citing the “undue competitive advantage” rule, and updated the home page on their website so that a large red stamp reading “Banned by the NBA” appeared over a picture of the shoes.
Numerous media outlets, including Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, ESPN and the Associated Press, picked up on the story on their websites, and the APL site crashed because of the increased traffic.
“The amount of attention and notoriety is all positive,” Adam said, “but honestly, it’s been crazy.”
And crazy good for business.
“The free global publicity when a story like that goes all over the world … you can’t buy that kind of coverage,” Carter, the USC sports business expert, said.
“It gives you a great initial blast, but ultimately the quality of the shoes and customer service take precedent. But from a PR standpoint, it doesn’t get much better than that.”