Athletic Propulsion Labs has carved out its own lane in the athletic market since 2009 with luxury performance footwear. With more people investing in healthier lifestyles, co-founders Ryan and Adam Goldston are ready to put their foot on the gas.
Last year, APL celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the NBA banning its Load ‘N Launch technology — a move that proved to be beneficial in the long run — with the release of two new basketball shoes: SuperFuture and Concept X. This year, the twin brothers have plans to continue its push in hoops as well as other categories it has including running, training and lifestyle.
Below, the Goldston brothers talk competing in the basketball shoe market, the impact of COVID-19 on business and more.
How has COVID-19 impacted APL? Did it force you to shift your 2021 strategy?
Adam Goldston: “We are a digitally native brand. APL was founded online and we didn’t start selling wholesale accounts until year five of the company, so we’ve always had a tremendous connection with our customers through our own channels — and we had really been focused building that deeper connection over the last two years. [Now in] 2021, we are going to continue to build a deeper 1-to-1 connection with our consumer through our own channels and continue to support our key wholesale accounts that are continuing to innovate moving into the future.”
How did your day-to-day chance since COVID-19 hit stateside?
Ryan Goldston: “It has definitely been a change of pace since we have spent the last few years traversing the globe. Instead of doing in-person meetings, everything became digital as the entire team was working remotely, but it actually made us more efficient and better communicators internally. The virtual shift made it so that each person had more autonomy and it allowed our team members to become stronger, which in turn made APL a much stronger, efficient and better company. Movement is something that has always inspired us, so not having the ability to travel had its difficulties, but instead of long flights we started taking long drives and it provided a new type of inspiration that will definitely start to materialize through our product offerings later this year.”
When do you predict business will return to normal? And what will post-COVID normal look like?
AG: “APL is a growth company with great momentum, which is fueled by our DTC sales tripling and total sales doubling in 2020 — all while being 100% independent with no investors. We have always taken a dynastic approach to building APL, meaning we not only make decisions for the now, but we truly make decisions with the future in mind. APL began as a DTC business in 2010 with the goal of controlling as much of the customer experience as possible, and in 2017 we really started laying the infrastructure for 2020 to be our largest DTC year ever, which it was by a large margin. Since inception, APL has been a lean company that listens to our customers and this core principle has scaled with us as we’ve continually grown the business. For us, post-COVID will simply mean that we can engage with our customers and fans more intimately in a real life setting. With that in mind, as things begin to open up, we will still look to build deeper digital connections with our community as well, so that it continues to really be a 1-to-1 relationship that has made APL loved by so many.”
Last year, 10 years after the NBA banned APL’s Load ‘N Launch technology, you launched two new basketball models. A decade later, what are your thoughts on having a technology banned by the league?
AG: “Still to this day it remains incredible. The reason why the Concept 1 was banned by the NBA was because it provided the wearer with an ‘undue competitive advantage’ over their opponent, so being a brand new company and having the most respected basketball organization say the shoes were too good to be worn was a pretty amazing moment — and led to meteoric sales and laid the foundation for us to be where we are.”
How does the tech in the latest APL basketball shoes stack up to what’s being used on-court today?
AG: “Both of the new basketball silhouettes we introduced to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the ban are incredibly futuristic. The APL SuperFuture features a laceless design that still has the original, incredible Load ‘N Launch technology that was originally banned by the NBA. The Concept X features our newest Load ‘N Launch Carbon 10 technology which has a full-length carbon plate, 10 springs and a larger top plate so that there is even more propulsion when you jump. Both of these shoes sit at the top of the market and are the ultimate basketball shoes if you want to perform and look your best.”
Are APL’s newest basketball looks for the lifestyle-focused wearer or someone hitting the basketball court?
AG: “Every single APL product is designed with function in mind first and foremost. The APL Concept X and the APL SuperFuture are the best basketball shoes currently available on the market, so the athlete that cares about performing at their best will definitely want them, but we believe you can make technology look beautiful, so the casual wearer will also gravitate towards them.”
What makes the basketball shoe market so desirable to compete in today?
AG: “For us it’s love and heritage. Basketball was our first love and what initially attracted us to shoes in general and we started APL by making basketball shoes for ourselves, so basketball is and always will be in our DNA. In addition to that, it’s the competitive and performance nature of the sport, basketball players are some of the most incredible athletes and to make products to help basketball players perform and look better while doing so has and always will excite us.”
Although it is somewhat new to the market, how has your latest basketball offering been received?
AG: “The response to and sales of the Concept X and APL SuperFuture have been incredible. The silhouettes released on the 10-year anniversary of the APL Concept 1 being banned by the NBA, and with these two models we really took the design and technology to the next level. Our customers and fans expect APL to push the limits of technology, while still making it look beautiful, and that’s exactly what we did with our newest basketball introductions. We pride ourselves on designing products to perform at the highest level, but also love how our customers can take these products and find new ways to wear them in their day to day lives. With the Concept X and the APL SuperFuture, people have definitely been wearing them to play basketball, but also in a lifestyle setting and that’s what truly givers a product legs.”
What are the footwear categories APL is most interested in moving forward?
RG: “The categories we are the most interested in are the ones we are currently leading: basketball, running, training and lifestyle. While we have ideas for many other categories, we only enter into a new category or segment if we have something we believe can change the landscape. While we have accomplished so much as a brand over the last decade, we have only skimmed the surface of our ultimate potential. All of the categories listed above are very large spaces and we are constantly developing new innovations that will continue to solidify APL as the world leader in luxury performance.”