Jasmine Maietta, founder and CEO of D2C start-up Round21, knows how self-expressive Gen Z is. So she’s collaborating with artists to introduce a range of sports products that let these young consumers tell the world who they are and what they believe in.
Maietta left Peloton as vice president of global brand marketing back in April to work on the launch. She tells Marketing Daily she got the idea after years of watching young people try to find ways to express themselves through their products, sometimes even writing their own messages on sneakers and clothing.
She hopes Round21’s products, which for now include ping-pong paddles and mini basketball backboards, answer that demand for individuality. “My vision is to bring art to things we love in life,” she says. “And because I used to be a professional athlete and my history with Peloton and before that, at Under Armour, it feels so right to start with sports. But who knows where we’ll go?”
Some of the ping-pong paddles have messages that support the social justice movement, like Miami artist’s SURGE “Spread Love, Not Hate” paddle, or Los Angeles artist Adhemas Batista’s “We will breathe.”
The mini backboards are designed to fill the community gap left when cities took down basketball rims, to discourage social gatherings. Priced at $59, those come in designs like "Madness Square Garden," by artist Adrian Brandon.
“Today’s generation wants to bring that expressiveness to every part of their day -- what they play with, what they surround their lives with,” Maietta says. She believes it’s the same spirit that’s fueling the popularity of the “My Cause My Cleats” program in the National Football League, and the personalized social-justice apparel worn by National Basketball Association players this season.
Funding for the beta launch has come from Kickstarter. Maietta says she is currently working with three angels for a round of funding she hopes will close at the end of this quarter.
Starting with ping-pong paddles was an easy call, says the former WNBA player. “I grew up playing with my dad, and it seems like there is always a ping-pong table in locker rooms, rec rooms, basements and community centers. Our main value is inclusivity, and this is a game anyone can play, no matter their age or size.”
Working with the NBA, the company provided customized ping-pong paddles to teams, including the Detroit Pistons, when they were quarantined in the NBA Bubble.
Next up are inflatable basketballs, “and we’re looking at any number of sports after that,” Maietta says. “All the partnerships we’ll pursue are based on individuality, inclusivity and creativity. We’re targeting people who want products that say something about who they are.”
She also recently hired Joe Sargent, the former director of brand marketing of the Kansas City Chiefs, as head of strategic marketing. He will spearhead brand marketing initiatives, activation strategy and planning.
The company is selling products directly to consumers, but also through some retailers, including Shopify, Amazon, Design Milk and Showfields.