Michigan brand branching out after seven years in the marketplace
February 2, 2017 by Steve Hill in News with 0 comments
Like many manufacturers, MVP Disc Sports has cultivated a legion of followers based on both the style and science it has brought to the market in its seven years of existence.
Unlike other manufacturers, the company has, to this point, not fielded a professional team. So when Team MVP was announced Monday, fans of the Marlette, Michigan, brand responded with nearly a decade of pent up excitement by crashing the MVP Disc Sports website.
Despite some scrambling to get things back up and running, MVP co-founder Brad Richardson was pleased that fans were welcoming the announcement of the brand’s first sponsored professional squad.
“People have been a fan just because of the product itself, and I think now that we’re reaching out and sponsoring players like other companies are doing, it really energizes our fans,” Richardson said.
Initially being rolled out with a 24-player roster comprised of US-based and international players, as well as a smattering of amateurs and juniors, Team MVP is the brand’s first foray into official player sponsorship. And according to MVP Team Manager Steve Hollaway, the company isn’t just supporting talent on the course. It’s also looking for a certain mindset from its pros.
“We believe in professionalism,” Hollaway said. “Our representation of our players, I think, is more important to me than how skilled you are.”
Hollaway, who comes from a minor league sports marketing background, emphasized the importance of educating the company’s players. To him, it doesn’t matter if a player can throw 500 feet if he or she isn’t willing to adhere to a certain standard of conduct.
“What I’m more interested in is teaching our players that we have now, and the ones we’re going to have, how to be a Ricky [Wysocki], how to be a Paul [McBeth],” Hollaway said. “And not necessarily just skill. Part of being a professional player in this arena is the ability to be a personal brand, the ability to be a marketer for your brand; how to deal with media, how to present yourself professionally, how to engage with fans.”
Richardson said the company’s infancy was spent honing its manufacturing processes, which left less in the budget for sponsoring tournaments and players. Now that he feels everything is correctly dialed in, the company decided it was time to expand its reach to the pro marketplace.
“In the earlier days it was about the product [and] letting it speak for itself, and we still have the same philosophy,” Richardson said. “Now that we’re looking to get involved with players, I think it’s going to help complement that concept altogether.”
While this is technically the company’s first foray into official team sponsorship, it is not the only time it has been linked to touring professional players. Nikko Locastro threw some MVP on a mixed bag sponsorship in 2015, and last year Scott Stokely often promoted the brand through his Blue Power initiative to encourage autism awareness. Neither player is still on the team – Locastro and the company parted ways amicably after his media requirements in recognizing the company were not fulfilled, Hollaway said, while Stokely has preferred not to be tied to a specific sponsor – but Hollaway did not rule out the company making a bid at upper echelon touring pros in the future.
“I am perfectly interested in talking to anybody that wants to team switch, but you are going to be held to the same standards I’m holding [team member] Lily [Ruthen] to, and she’s 10 years old,” Hollaway said. “If you show up and you’ve got a bad attitude on the course but you’re 1050-rated, I’m not interested in you.”
Instead, Hollaway is currently building the team with regional professionals like Graham Russell, an Arizona pro who Hollaway said can’t always get out on the road, but is an exemplary member of his local community.
Russell, who stands out not only for his skill, but also for the fact that he does it all from a standstill, said he’s been throwing MVP since before the team was created. Currently climbing back up the ladder to regain his 1000-rating, he said he was hoping to not only be an ambassador for the brand, but also a resource for those who have to adapt their form due to knee issues.
“I know the value that disc golf has added to my life, and feel that it’s accessible to so many different people regardless of what group or class they may feel like they fit in society,” Russell said. “It’s not an exclusionary sport and gives so many people an opportunity to experience being outside enjoying life off the couch.”
Jennifer Sawyer, the team’s top female professional, has been with the company since 2015. She mostly stays in the Midwest to play, but said she plans to represent the company at Pro Worlds, the United States Women’s Disc Golf Championship, and throughout the Midwest Women’s Tour.
“They’ve been great to me,” Sawyer said. “And to be able to support a Michigan company, being a Michgander myself, I like that opportunity.”
The ground-up approach was something Hollaway said he saw happening more in the sport, and it aligned well with the brand’s philosophy.
“We’re really interested in bringing new players to the scene, just like the Disc Golf Pro Tour is, just like the Disc Golf World Tour is,” Hollaway said. “They’re trying to really branch out to a wider audience, and we believe our members are ambassadors of the sport.”