Perhaps you’ve seen the 40-foot RV with the company name and slogan—Born For This—parked outside a big junior tournament or a pro event. Perhaps you’ve spotted a player wearing one of their flashy performance tops with the catchy logo. If not, you’re probably not familiar with Athletic DNA. The Seattle-based apparel company was started about five years ago by a group of former college players looking to fill what they saw as a void in the youth market: Racquet companies try to help out juniors, but big clothing companies are not as interested.
So the idea of Athletic DNA was hatched to not only create high-quality performance apparel, but support the developing athlete as well. By sponsoring players with an incentive-based scale—the higher the rank, the higher the discount—Athletic DNA helps ambitious junior players, which ultimately helps the entire sport. The only way the company will fully sponsor a player—there are eight so far in the entire country—is by winning a super national. The junior program now has more than 500 members.
In order to get the word out, the company is active in social media and has been committed to a grassroots marketing effort which has them spending ten months of the year on the road promoting the label at different venues. The primary vehicle, literally, is the 40-foot RV. The property of one of the original investors, it was sitting idle until they came up with the idea three years ago to take it on the road to tournaments. It’s not unusual for company reps to sleep in the RV at Walmart parking lots, RV camps, and even at tournament sites.
While deeply committed to the junior ranks, Athletic DNA also sponsors pro players the company believes have potential, but aren’t household names—players such as Brian Baker, Tim Smyczek, and its first female endorser, Lauren Embree (see video below). The pros have a vested interest in the company’s success as they’re all given a piece of the business.
The designers of the clothes come from the extreme sports and snowboarding community. There are simple pieces, but the intent is to make the colors and graphics aggressive and brash. It’s something any athlete could train or compete in, but it definitely has a youthful edge. The line is available at about 100 retailers across the country, as well as online at Athletic DNA and Tennis Warehouse.