Andres Vallejo worked as a tennis instructor through his college years before starting Tennis Trunk. And, as a lifelong tennis player, Vallejo told PYMNTS in an interview, he was very familiar with the industry and the needs of consumers “not only from a product level but also from a service level.” Beyond giving lessons, Vallejo hosted tournaments and clinics. He would end up taking those talents and applying them to start a subscription business following an experience in his senior year of college.
At the time, he went to play tennis with a friend from out of town. They weren’t able to play at the country club where Vallejo coached, which had all his equipment like tennis balls and cones. They went to play tennis at a park, and, when they arrived, they didn’t have any tennis balls they could use. He didn’t usually stock up on them because he typically had them at his disposal at the club. The only tennis balls he at the time were super flat and didn’t have any bounce left in them.
They ended up driving to the nearest Sports Authority to pick up a can of tennis balls. They returned to the courts, but they were out of luck: other players had taken the courts. Annoyed, Vallejo was driving home when he received a notification from Dollar Shave Club that his shipment was on its way — and that message sparked the idea for his company. At that moment, he realized he could help tennis players find a more convenient and fun way of having tennis balls and other products at the ready, by having them delivered to their doors every month.
The Subscription Box
The company offers multiple plan options, including a six-month prepay, a three-month prepay and a month-to-month option. And subscribers can pay through their plans via PayPal and credit cards. When consumers first sign up for a box, they choose their gender that helps with a selection of products as well as their shirt sizes for apparel. And they also choose the type of tennis ball that they would like to receive from the company — regular duty or extra duty. They can either get two cans of extra, two cans of regular or one of each. (Beyond ordering the box for themselves, the company calls the product “the ultimate tennis gift” and it can gift wrap the first box for a fee.)
Consumers know they are going to get two cans of tennis balls, but the rest of the products in the delivery are a surprise. In the past, the company has included items such as included apparel, socks, wristbands, sports towels, overgrips, energy gels and protein bars. And, when asked what benefits that brands receive from having their products featured on the platform, Vallejo notes that getting people to try their products is “probably the best marketing channel out there.”
He pointed out that occurs regularly at a place like Sam’s Club or Costco where someone will be giving out samples of a particular food. He also notes that someone who subscribes to his service is not a person who plays tennis only once a month, but someone who at least plays once a week and usually two to three times a week. They are the type of people that a tennis brand — or not a tennis brand, in some cases, as with snacks — might want to reach. “These are the people that you want to get your product in front of,” Vallejo said. While the company works with national brands, it also works with up and coming brands if it sees that there’s a fit.
Beyond Tennis Trunk, other online innovators are curating selections of gear for all sorts of sports. RunLocker, for instance, provides a running gear subscription service. It offers a main item in its box, which is the most valuable product. That could be a T-shirt, a baseball cap or a pair of sunglasses. There is also a secondary item, which could be a product that is more aligned with stretching exercises, rehabilitation, or general fitness, such as a jump rope. The third might be an energy product like bars, gel, or gummies.
From RunLocker to Tennis Trunk, sports innovators are providing consumers with convenience and curation with the help of the subscription business model.