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Spalding bounces back with better basketball.

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Sporting goods manufacturer Spalding Sports Worldwide, Chicopee, MA, took this old adage to the basketball court and then the research center and came back with a new nonwoven composite indoor competition basketball that is tearing up the institutional marketplace. Introduced in April 1992, the "Top-Flite ZK 1000" basketball uses a patent-pending synthetic leather nonwoven, "ZK Composite," to give the ball exceptional durability, softness and feel, characteristics that improve on traditional leather game balls, at a 35% cost savings.

While Spalding had been very comfortable in its position in the retail market, the institutional market (collegiate, scholastic and organized league play) had become inundated with all-leather game balls from every basketball company, balls with similar characteristics and sold at about the same price. There was no appreciable product differentiation. "With athletic budgets around the country being slashed, coaches simply did not have the means to purchase new game balls," said John Doleva, director of marketing, Leisure Products Group. "We sought to provide a lower cost, better playing product for the market."

By giving the research and development team the complete list of characteristics - give it better feel, grip and play than traditional leather, make it last longer, all at a reduced cost - from the beginning, Spalding was able to redesign the entire basketball. In conjunction with a leading Far Eastern nonwoven roll goods manufacturer, the ZK Composite, a needlepunched combination of synthetic and natural fibers, was developed as a synthetic leather. The needlepunched product achieves its remarkable characteristics by being impregnated with a loosening agent to impart resiliency and then treated with a final topcoat for softness.

The result has been a resounding success. The Top-Flite 1000 ZK has already been chosen as the official game ball of the CBA, the NBA Jam Session, the USAB top amateur league and several top ranked collegiate teams. In a little over a year, Spalding has tripled its market share in the competitive play institutional market with both men's and women's models. And the company has already exploited the exceptional feel and cost savings of the ZK nonwoven by developing the "ZK Trilogy," with a volleyball and football joining the ranks. The indoor volleyball made with ZK has only just been introduced, but initial reactions have been just as positive. The football is scheduled to debut for the 1994 playing season. "With the ZK Composite, we have introduced a new era of material," explained Mr. Doleva.
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Title Annotation:Spalding Sports Worldwide's Top-Flite ZK 1000 basketball
Publication:Nonwovens Industry
Date:Aug 1, 1993
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