Helmet Maker Vicis Courts NFL QBs to Invest in Latest Funding Round
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of a hit—like a car bumper does—and to distribute more of that force outside the impact area of the head than competing helmet models do.
Vicis trumpets its top safety rating in laboratory tests of various helmets the NFL and the league’s players union have helped fund during each of the past two years. Vicis says these tests showed that its Zero1 helmet was more effective at reducing “head impact severity measures” than models from competitors like Riddell, Schutt, and Xenith that were also tested.
Football teams at 1,200 high schools, plus another 150 professional and college teams, use or plan to begin using Vicis helmets, the startup says.
In November, Vicis announced it had launched sales of a Zero1 helmet that’s smaller than, but otherwise has a similar design to, the adult model. The Zero1 Youth, as Vicis calls its newest helmet, also comes with a lower price: $495, compared to $950 for the full-size model.
Emerging companies like Vicis and Xenith are paying close attention to the pricing of their helmets as they try to gain territory in a competitive arena. (Xenith was founded a decade ago in Lowell, MA, by a physician who played quarterback at Harvard University, but later moved its headquarters to Detroit.) These upstart companies are seeking to accumulate market share from Riddell and Schutt, the industry’s two biggest players. They know that players’ teams and families won’t favor a new product that they don’t see as affordable. (Riddell and Schutt each sell an adult helmet that costs under $350, while Schutt’s most expensive model costs $995.)
Pricing is also important because fewer high school students are going out for football than in the past, as The Guardian recently reported. Coaches told the newspaper they believe one reason is the link between repeated blows to the head and brain diseases like CTE. Additionally, last month HBO’s Real Sports aired an investigation reporting that affluent families are increasingly turning away from signing their kids up to play for youth and high school football teams, while participation among children from low-income households is on the rise.
For its part, Vicis says it has partnered with Fund My Team, a Newark, NJ-based organization that works alongside youth sports teams to raise money, to help put Vicis’ helmets and other protective equipment within closer financial reach of youth football leagues across the country.