Hy-Pro International has been the UK distributor of Shock Doctor for over 15 years and acquired the UK distribution for McDavid last March. We spoke to UK brand manager Chris Lord about the transition and the current UK market
When did you get into the sports trade?
2005. After completing my degree in business management and sports coaching, I did a stint in sports recruitment before joining HaB International. I worked on a great product called POWERbreathe and was involved in sales, marketing and events.
Following this, I moved to British Swimming as sponsorship manager, looking after the likes of Kellogg’s and Speedo in the build-up to and after the 2012 Olympics. I have now been at Hy-Pro for nearly three years, initially looking after Shock Doctor, but now also McDavid.
What does your role at McDavid entail?
It’s a broad role that incorporates all the key aspects of managing the brand’s presence in the UK, including account management, marketing, procurement, sponsorship and sales.
Best part of your job?
I get to work on different projects with different teams. I have to manage my time effectively, as one day I will be working with the guys at Saracens doing mouthguard fittings, the next day writing copy and then on the road meeting customers.
Proudest professional moment?
Working at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics games was an amazing experience.
We also did a big free swimming promotion with Kellogg’s that year, which was featured on over 50 million Kellogg’s cereal packets and resulted in over 160,000 kids getting free swims at local pools. It was great to see how two partners could work together to increase participation and get more kids active.
My current role working with the team at Saracens has been superb. Their feedback has been so positive and to see all the team wearing Shock Doctor mouthguards during the Premiership and European cup finals was a proud moment.
Favourite sporting moment?
The Rugby World Cup in 2003 was pretty special, but the reason it was so memorable for me was that I was at university at the time. I remember getting a bit overexcited the night before and to ensure I didn’t miss it I slept under the TV cabinet in the lounge of our student house.
To then watch it surrounded by all my university friends and win in the manner we did was very memorable, if not a bit nerve wracking.
How’s business been since you took over McDavid’s UK distribution?
Overall, business has been good. As is the case with picking up distribution, there are always a few challenges. However, we have a great team at Hy-Pro and everyone has been superb in ensuring we are making the transition as smooth as possible.
Also, the team at McDavid in Belgium have been on hand to offer support and guidance. There is still a lot to learn in regards to the products, as the McDavid range is pretty large and very technical, but we’re learning more and more each day.
What plans have you got for the brand?
In terms of products, we have some exciting new lines. On the sports medical side, we have the Freelastics range, which is a high quality knitted support that uses a 400 needle vertical stitch pattern. This means we can achieve targeted support and compression and eliminate any seams that could irritate.
We also have the Dual Compression range, which uses the principals of kinesiology taping, but applied to a lightweight support. In terms of marketing activity, we are in the process of working with two high profile sports teams and will hopefully be announcing some pretty big partnerships soon.
Has the increased focus on player safety been good for business?
Yes, in the sense that the consumer is more aware than ever about the demands sport places on them and in the case of parents, their children. As a result, our sales over the last three years have increased year on year.
However, I think there’s a lot of misinformation and a general lack of understanding about player safety. I’m also the brand manager for Shock Doctor and we frequently see wording such as ‘potentially prevents concussion’ or ‘might prevent concussion’ on marketing communications.
We deal in facts and research and until we have seen solid independent evidence that something is the case, we won’t mislead the consumer into thinking our products can do something they potentially can’t.
In both the supports and mouthguard markets, we are seeing cheaper and cheaper products coming to market. The lower end is becoming very congested and we’re at risk of devaluing the market and forcing overall quality and prices down. At a time when player safety is becoming even more crucial, quality should be leading the way, not just price.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
When it comes to safety and protection, as an industry we need to be more informed and responsible when selling to the consumer.
For more information email [email protected], visit www.hy-pro.co.uk or call 01582 670100.