They're Selling Attitude For And 1, it's not about the shoes, it's the shtick

May 30, 1999

Seth Berger attended Penn's Wharton School with hopes that it
would prepare him for an earnest business pursuit. His main
pursuit, outside his studies, was basketball, which he had
played in high school and enjoyed at Penn in daily pickup games.
But after he graduated in 1993, his basketball jones was as
intense as ever. So while his classmates negotiated jobs on Wall
Street, Berger, now 31, joined with two friends and launched And
1, a basketball apparel company. Borrowing from one Visa to pay
another and "making tons of mistakes," Berger earned a whopping
$1,813 in the company's first year. Reluctant, however, to give
up the job for one that wouldn't allow them to play hoops every
day at lunch, Berger and his sole mates soldiered on, adding
shoes to their line in 1996. Three years later their company is
fast emerging as a PTP-er in the $7.5 billion-a-year athletic
shoe industry and will do more than $100 million in sales this
year.

And 1, based in Rosemont, Pa., has succeeded by departing from
conventional wisdom at every turn. A cardinal rule of the
sneaker industry is that shoes be marketed more for fashion than
performance. And 1, though, asserts that it wants only serious
basketball players buying its shoes, which feature extra
cushioning for shock absorption and high-abrasion rubber
outsoles. The company offers designs for specific positions--for
example, the lightweight Inside Out Mid, with additional lateral
support, is meant for someone playing guard. "If you don't have
game," says Berger, flatly, "you'd look silly wearing And 1."

Further, while sluggish performance of late has led the sneaker
industry to cut costs by axing athlete endorsement deals, And 1
has nine NBA players under contract, including New York Knicks
guard-cum-coach-throttler Latrell Sprewell. Eight others,
including Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber, wear the shoes for
free.

Most controversial is the company's unabashed embrace of trash
talking. At a time when the public has a low threshold for
athletes' boorishness, And 1 shirts are festooned with lines
such as TURN ON THE DISPOSAL, YOUR GAME'S GARBAGE. One shirt
asks, YOU LIKE THAT MOVE? SO DOES YOUR GIRL. Is this really
appropriate for a company that caters largely to kids and young
athletes? "Absolutely," says Berger. "Trash talk is a crucial
element of basketball, part of what makes it great and gives it
flavor."

Clearly, And 1 is doing something right. The company expects to
sell more than one million pairs of shoes this year, most priced
between $65 and $85.

With an established brand, flourishing sales and currency with
the consumers, And 1 is an ideal candidate for an acquisition.
"If I were a company like K-Swiss or New Balance that had the
infrastructure but had never found a way to get into basketball,
I'd be salivating," says John Horan, publisher of the Sporting
Goods Intelligence newsletter. For the moment Berger and his
partners say they have no plans to either succumb to a buyout or
go public. "Sure, we'd be loaded," he says. "But we couldn't
possibly be having as much fun as we're having now."

"Trash talk is a crucial element of basketball," says Berger,
"part of what gives it flavor."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)