Athletic Brands Lead the AMA ICC with Lessons on Hustling, Doing What You Love
The 2018 AMA International Collegiate Conference is sharing space with WrestleCon — literally and figuratively. With the two events converged in the same hotel, AMA snagged Scott Colton, aka “Colt Cabana,” wrestler, commentator, comedian and podcaster, as a surprise guest to kick off its own conference.
Colton offered his own brand story (and quipped, “Yes, I wrote off baby oil on my taxes”). He spent time in professional wrestling chat rooms as a kid to learn more about the career. He got his degree in business marketing at Western Michigan University while training to become a professional wrestler. He would go to any venue possible to practice his craft.
He realized he could do his passion full-time not only if he wrestled more often, but if he sold merchandise as well. “I did what I had to do to make a living,” he said. “All of a sudden I became this marketing guy.”
Colton eventually signed with the WWE. He was stereotyped when he met with WWE CEO Vince McMahon and presented his biography. McMahon may have been influenced by a memory of Colton not as “Colt Cabana,” but as Scotty Goldman on “Smackdown!” where he launched his major career. His stint on the show didn’t last very long, and when it ended, Colton says it made him realize he didn’t want to lose his career by losing his vision for himself or by putting all of his eggs in the WWE basket.
As a lover of comedy, he chose to start a podcast, a web series and act more. He’s continued to follow his own path as a wrestler and brand himself as the person he wants to be. “I had a passion and I followed it,” he says.
At another end of the sports-entertainment spectrum, the night’s official keynote was Mark French, co-founder of Mission Athletecare and inventor of Court Grip. He began by addressing reconstructive surgeries he’s had in his hand — channeling Colton’s feeling of always working at what you love (in his case, continuing to play sports).
As a kid, French was a ball boy at basketball games. He noticed how obsessively players would wipe the bottom of their shoes to solve the issue of court slippage. His weekends were spent doing product development in Cleveland, and eventually he began testing a product with the NBA, NCAA, high school and recreational players. The result was Court Grip.
NBA player Dwayne Wade insisted that he needed the product sooner than later, and teams begin to notice it on each other’s benches. It was in huge demand until there were issues with the bottles that resulted it in getting banished from the league. The bottles were reconfigured (and even won an award for packaging ergonomics).
French held onto the product, not selling until approached by Mission skincare, a line specifically for athletes. It became Mission Althletecare, solving problems for athletes.
“My career before this was in media and marketing,” French says. “But it all comes down to adoption. The target demographic started buying it.”
In addition to patenting the formula for Court Grip, French patented putting the product directly onto the sneaker sole. The company’s other products, such as Enduracool towels, were launched with the help of news shows (including appearances by tennis player Serena Williams). When the Cleveland Cavaliers trainer called for towels, it helped raise significant capital for the company.
French helped launch The Players’ Tribune, a website where athletes can contribute to stories in the media themselves. He has more media ventures coming up, including a platform where famous athletes motivate children to move and fight childhood obesity.