On My Mind: Sports Inc. 2019 Team Dealers Fall Show

Every year at this time – right before the holidays hit full stride – we head to Las Vegas for the Sports Inc. Team Dealers Fall Show and we always look forward to getting an up close and personal look at the state of the independent team dealer. This year was certainly no exception – in fact, if anything Sports Inc. and its vendor base stepped it up a notch for the 2019 show held Nov. 24-26 at the massive Mandalay Bay Convention Center.

There was some notable excitement on the floor and a number of vendors went the extra mile in their presentations to make it feel like a real trade show, and not just a bunch of vendors looking to sell a few balls and uniforms. On-floor presentations, contests and even a fashion show (a first for Sports Inc?) really livened things up. In  marked contrast to the BSN Sports annual sales meeting we attended a week earlier in Phoenix, which had a decidedly corporate feel, the Sports Inc. crowd was a little more unstructured, certainly more independent.

Some observations from walking the floor and talking to a lot – and I mean a lot – of vendors and Sports Inc. members:

Kevin Hennessy of Summerskates (left) and Josh Wintermantel of Socks Quick get ready to hand out the cash to the winner of their co-sponsored Closest to the Pin contest on the show floor.
  • What was that roar over in the corner on Sunday evening? Turns out it was the crowd surrounding the virtual Closest to the Pin golf contest sponsored by Summerskates and Socks Quick. There was reason for excitement, especially when Butch Cattanach, of Team Sports Ink, walked away with the $1000 prize. That definitely had to be first!
  • Four young athletes walked the “runway” at the Under Armour fashion show highlighting its new Armourfuse uniforms – three-week turns starting this spring. A fully sublimated Armourfuse football uniform was the focus of the show that I watched. And FYI, UA’s Sideline apparel is now called Athlete Essentials.
  • Speaking of BSN Sports, A4 was handing out mouse pads with the BSN logo crossed out. The company’s Adam Waugh tells us A4 is committed to the independent team dealer and its buying group partnerships and the mouse pads were just a fun and certainly effective way to get the message across.

  • There were a lot of cheesy moustaches walking the show in honor of Mo-vember, which annually raises awareness of men’s health issues by having men grow a moustache during the month of November. Chad Clark of Cliff Keen was looking good as usual in his Mo-vember growth, but he was rivaled by a host of young men from OrderMyGear growing their own facial hair.
  • The Sports Inc. show was one of the first times the industry had a chance to see the dueling consolidated companies out in full force. Situated a stone’s throw from each other were Founder Sport Group, with its Badger, Alleson, Chromagear, Teamwork and Garb brands, and Augusta Sportswear Group, focusing on Freestyle sublimation along with its group of brands – Pacific Headwear, Holloway, High Five, Augusta and Russell. Where these brands use to make up six of seven different booths at the show, they now filled up two large areas. Just like their trade advertising.
  • Keynote speaker Walter Bond, former NBA player and now a motivational guru, got the Sports Inc. members and vendors revved up to open the show with his message to set their goals high, know when to change and to run their business like a team. “Get out of the equipment business and get into the people business,” he urged.
  • Speaking of equipment, it looks like there is a serious new football helmet maker in the business to rival Schutt and the direct sellers. Light helmets – with a product that uses Kevlar in its shell and professes to be half the weight of a traditional football helmet – drew a lot of interest from dealers looking for another viable helmet alternative. CEO Nicholas Esayian tells me the response has been strong in its first year in existence as it builds up an impressive dealer rep network across the country. We will certainly be hearing more from Light Helmets, out of Carlsbad, CA.
  • It was great to be able to walk the floor and stop in on one of the many vendor presentations going on throughout the day. Augusta, Under Armour, SanMar, Trigon and a host of others educated attendees on what’s new for 2020 with the crowded aisles as a backdrop.
  • By far the star of the show was OrderMyGear, which announced a technology partnership with Sports Inc. as the show opened, piled it on with the announcement of real-time inventory partnerships with five key brands and drew large crowds to its presentations outside of its high-tech booth. Lime green-clad OMG reps made sure the brand was well represented. And congratulations to our friend Matt Kaplan, who was recently appointed senior VP–revenue at OMG.
  • Finally, as I do after every Sports Inc. show in Las Vegas, I pledge not to claim my gambling losses on my expense account. I guess I should have hit on 16 and held on 17.