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Grip Spritz: The Game Changer of Basketball Gear

Written by:

Esther is a business strategist with over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur, executive, educator, and management advisor.

Grip Spritz: The Game Changer of Basketball Gear

Matthew Olen, the managing member & chief marketing officer of Grip Spritz, stands at the forefront of innovation in the sports accessory market. Under his guidance, Grip Spritz has carved out a niche in the highly competitive world of sports equipment, offering a groundbreaking solution for basketball players needing reliable shoe traction. Olen’s insightful approach to marketing and product development has not only catapulted the brand to success but has also set a benchmark for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially in the realms of e-commerce and sports technology.

Our conversation with Matthew Olen offers a deep dive into the challenges and triumphs of building a brand that’s changing the game in athletic performance, so let’s check it out!

Matthew Olen

Inspiration Behind the Business

SBS – What motivated you to start Grip Spritz and how did you identify the need for this product in the market?

Matthew – Grip Spritz evolved into what it is today from a totally different idea. Grip Spritz was created by Tom Rose, a self-proclaimed golf-aholic, for golf clubs. Now in his late 60s, he remembers golfing so often in his younger days that he had to regrip his golf clubs multiple times a season. Like everything, regripping golf clubs became more expensive as the years went by. In 2011, following back surgery, he was counting down the days until he could get back on the course but his club grips needed replacing. Not wanting to wait any longer, he assumed there had to be an instant fix. There wasn’t, not yet!

After a handful of years in golf, some pros on the LPGA Tour were giving him feedback and asked if he had considered Grip Spritz for the bottom of basketball and volleyball shoes.

Tom quickly realized how large the youth basketball and volleyball market is and decided to give it a go. Realizing how much he didn’t know about the basketball space, he knew he would need some help.

In late 2019, when he was walking his dog, he walked by my house. Tom had walked past my house every day for the last 15 years with his dog and odds were, regardless of weather, I was in my driveway playing basketball. He asked if I’d try out Grip Spritz on my basketball shoes and give him feedback. It did wonders, and I was all in!

Product Development

SBS – Can you describe the research and development process that went into creating your basketball shoe grip spray?

Matthew – Developing the spray was about a two-year process of small tweaks. Thankfully, nothing had to change when we switched from golf to basketball. For golf, the spray had to be safe for rubber. If it dried out and ruined the rubber grips, it would be counterintuitive. Additionally, since it would come in contact with your hands, it had to be safe to the touch.

Working with youth players and expensive basketball shoes, it had to be safe for the player and the shoes. Most solutions out there, be it another product or homemade solutions, use alcohol or adhesives. We knew we had to avoid those. Alcohol would ruin the rubber soles and adhesives would just make the shoes magnets for whatever dust/dirt is on the court!

Grip Spritz Products

Target Market Strategies

SBS – How did you determine your target market, and what strategies have you used to effectively reach and engage with them?

Matthew – Basketball is a massive pyramid. The higher you go up, from youth to high school, to college, to pros, the fewer players there are. Additionally, the quality of the court improves and the access to new shoes is easy and affordable.

Growing up playing, I knew most gyms were used for everything you could imagine. Rec Centers were used for any event in the community, school gyms are used for gym classes, assemblies, and dances but they aren’t cleaned nearly enough. The quality of basketball and volleyball courts from the youth tournaments through high school games is normally dusty, so there had to be a fix.

To reach players, parents, and coaches, we took a blended approach of social media and in-person events. When we first got started, we knew a couple of AAU organizations that would let us set up a table at their events. We would go and let players try Grip Spritz out for free and start to build a real grassroots swell. As players would take their bottles to other events, other players, parents, and coaches would notice, and we started to build a real following.

As players would try it out, we would turn their experience into before and after videos and reaction videos to promote Grip Spritz through social media.

Customer Feedback

SBS – How have you incorporated customer feedback into the evolution of your product and business model?

Matthew – Customer feedback is actually responsible for our team traction mat. After a few months of promoting the bottles and hitting events, coaches started noticing and giving us feedback. The main product for teams is a sticky pad. Imagine double sided tap on a heavy plastic board. Players step on it, it removes the dirt/dust from the soles of their shoes and then they go on the court. These have been around for decades, I grew up with them, they were really the only solution available.

From my personal experience, I used them but never thought about them too deeply. As we got more involved we started to realize that removing the dust from the soles doesn’t stop the shoes from picking up more as soon as you get on the floor.

We asked coaches what they liked and didn’t like about these products. They loved how easy it was for a team to use, they didn’t have to worry about players spraying their shoes with Grip Spritz while they’re trying to talk to them between quarters or at timeouts.

They weren’t a fan of how expensive they were. You constantly had to buy replacement sticky sheets because you’d go through tons during a game. They didn’t like having to peel off sheets while trying to coach anytime a player wanted a new one. Lastly, they were awkward to carry along with all the other stuff coaches had to bring to games.

We took all that info and built exactly what coaches wanted. It’s the same game-long grip players would get with the spray, just easier and quicker to apply for a team. It was half the cost of a sticky mat, but it would come with enough solution for the whole season, so you wouldn’t run out and have to reorder more. Since it lasted all game, coaches wouldn’t have any maintenance with it while coaching. Lastly, we put it all in a tote bag large enough to carry all their coaching equipment. Coaches don’t usually realize it but they built exactly what we’re selling them!

Marketing Techniques

SBS – What marketing channels have been most effective for promoting Grip Spritz, and why?

Matthew – Since our target market is mainly youth athletes, aged 7–18, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook Reels, and YouTube Shorts have been solid for us. The ability to go viral on any platform, any day, makes it reliable, especially as you continue to build an audience on each site.

In terms of our team traction mats, in-person events have been beneficial. Each state has yearly high school basketball coaches’ clinics as well as athletic directors’ conferences. We’ve done about 30 different state clinics between the two. They’re a great opportunity to showcase all of the feedback from coaches we built into our product.

E-commerce Platform Choice

SBS – Why did you choose your current e-commerce platform, and how has it impacted your business operations?

Matthew – We currently use Shopify. When I first joined Grip Spritz, we were on WordPress. Unfortunately, as the head of marketing, I was lost trying to build a website. Shopify made it so easy to build out our website exactly how we wanted and even easier to process orders and integrate shipping services both domestically and internationally.

Online Sales Strategies

SBS – What strategies have you employed to drive online sales and improve the customer shopping experience?

Matthew – Each year, we’ve added and expanded upon our e-commerce and online experience. Three years ago, we were solely on Shopify. We drove everyone there to help build brand awareness and familiarity with Grip Spritz.

In mid-2022, we built out our Amazon Storefront. We probably should have made this jump earlier. By the time we listed our products, Grip Spritz was one of the top 10 most searched-for terms in the basketball category. It was helpful, however, to wait a bit because we didn’t have to wait very long for things to ramp up on Amazon.

In 2023, we wanted to be easily available wherever you shop. With TikTok debuting TikTok Shop, it gave players who saw our content the ability to shop directly in the platform. We also built out our Etsy and eBay listings as well as getting approved for Walmart.com.

In 2024, we will spend a lot of effort utilizing our email list. This will include a monthly newsletter focusing on helping players work on their game: Creators who share at-home drills, best practices for college recruitment, and anything that can help families have a better basketball experience for whatever their goals are. We will also continue to promote Grip Spritz anytime we do an exclusive discount for our subscribers.

Competitive Advantage

SBS – How does Grip Spritz differentiate itself from similar products in the market?

Matthew – We were the first to market with an individual player traction spray. This definitely helped build some brand loyalty. In the last year, a few competitors have popped up. For the most part, they’re solely Amazon brands. Almost all of them are also just products from Alibaba. Ours is made locally in Ohio, we hardly ever run into any supply chain or shipping delay issues the others do. You’ll see them out of stock pretty frequently.

Being the first put us ahead of the trend versus others coming in late to capitalize on it. Having a team option that’s used at tons of schools at the high school and collegiate level also adds a level of trust in our brand compared to whatever else is out there.

Sustainability Efforts

SBS – What steps have you taken to ensure your product and business practices are sustainable?

Matthew – Our main competitor, the sticky pads, utilizes plastic adhesive sheets to remove dust from the soles of the basketball shoes. Most teams will use 5–8 sheets per game. With how many sticky pads are out there, the amount of plastic waste is absurd.

With our team traction mat, we eliminated the plastic sheets completely from the process. For reference, a team will use about six pounds worth of replacement sheets, according to their website. For every 10,000 teams that use a sticky pad, that’s 60,000 pounds of plastic. Or the equivalent of 30 pickup trucks!

Scaling the Business

SBS – What have been your biggest challenges in scaling your business, and how have you addressed them?

Matthew – The hardest part of scaling Grip Spritz came down to not knowing what we didn’t know. When we first started, outside of having some connections to a couple of AAU organizations, we were starting from zero. We didn’t take any outside money, so we had a serious shoestring budget.

I was in charge of our marketing and sales and had no idea how to run Facebook ads, build out a website or product pages, no clue about SEO, I just knew social media really well compared to my other cofounders who were a lot older than me.

It was a constant loop of solving a problem, creating a problem, learning one thing, and finding another thing we didn’t know.

This ended up being an advantage in the long run, though. Instead of paying an ad agency or an SEO company to just implement this stuff, by learning it ourselves, we’re never going to be handcuffed into having to pay for it to get done.

We knew how to market our individual bottles but had no idea the coaches’ clinics and athletic director associations existed. Once we found out about them, we had to find contacts at each event.

As we grew, we were producing, packing, and shipping everything in our houses, which got overwhelming very quickly. In early 2023, we were able to move into a spot where we could manufacture and ship everything.

It was just a continual process of getting over the next hurdle, and the next and the next, even if they felt like small steps, you’d look back and realize a ton of progress was made.

Partnerships and Collaborations

SBS – Can you talk about any significant partnerships or collaborations that have been crucial to your business growth?

Matthew – This also plays a huge role in how we differentiate ourselves from our competitors. Being associated with so many great organizations elevated Grip Spritz really quickly!

We partnered with a couple of very strategic groups. We started with some semi-pro leagues, the IPWBL (Independent Professional Women’s Basketball League) and the ABA.

At the youth level, we partnered with trainers all over the country. It was super easy for them to buy in bulk or recommend Grip Spritz to all the athletes they work with.

Our final partnership was with the Phenom National Basketball Camp. Phenom brings over 850 of the best youth basketball players from all over the world to LA to compete against one another.

Future Plans

SBS – What future developments or expansions are you planning for Grip Spritz?

Matthew – For Grip Spritz, 2024 really feels like a big breakout year. We are doing some larger events all over the country. We’ve started to become more known all over. This will be the second, third, and fourth years attending these so more coaches and athletic directors are starting to realize we’re an established brand not a flash in the pan.

We also are working on a few different variations of our products. The experience with the product will be the same but we want to offer a more aesthetically pleasing version of our traction mat. This will give colleges, and ideally, even NBA teams the opportunity to fully customize their traction mat. We still want to offer and improve upon our budget-friendly version for middle schools, high schools, and youth programs but also give a personalized feel for groups where money isn’t as tight.

Advice for Entrepreneurs

SBS – Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start an e-commerce business?

Matthew – I always feel a little weird giving advice to other entrepreneurs. First, because it still feels like I have so much to learn myself. Secondly, all advice for entrepreneurs feels cliché — because it is — but it also is very real.

Patience is massive. It feels like there are so many options out there for people to start working for themselves so they constantly go for the next shiny thing when they don’t get immediate results. If you pick one thing and stick with it, you have a lot better odds of succeeding compared to restarting every three months on the next idea.

Another cliché, the harder you work, the luckier you get. There isn’t a way around it, you have to do the work. Even when you don’t want to, even when you’re spending your own money to travel to work, knowing you aren’t going to get paid. Sometimes it really sucks but that’s why I don’t believe 90% off business fail, I really just think 90% of people quit.

Lastly, the biggest thing I had to learn was to not listen to the boo’s or the claps. Obviously, take constructive criticism, know what you don’t know, and take feedback. Don’t listen to the people who tell you to be “realistic” or that you’ll never succeed, even the random mean comments you’ll get on the internet. Similarly, ignore blind applause. Be grateful for it but focusing on either takes your attention of the work that needs to be done!


  1. Rich O says:

    Continued success with a great product ! Looking forward to your visit(s) out California way in 2024

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Grip Spritz: The Game Changer of Basketball Gear