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MLU Signs Exclusive Deal With Innova As Official Disc Providers

by in News with 27 Comments

MLU Innova Discs at the New York Rumble tryout.Major League Ultimate has signed a two year agreement to use the Innova Pulsar disc as the official disc of the league, the MLU announced today.

This marks the first time since the early 1990s that a high-profile league will use an ultimate disc other than the Discraft Ultrastar, which has been in widespread use since USA Ultimate selected the Ultrastar as the official championship disc in 1991.

“We wanted to partner with a highly organized Ultimate association for years. This looked like the best opportunity,” said Dave Dunipace, the President of Innova Discs, in a statement. “We have the ability to produce what the players need, the MLU has a way to publicize our disc, and we, through distribution and advertising, have a way to publicize both the MLU and the Pulsar.”

In addition to providing discs for all MLU games and practices, Innova will also rebrand their Pulsar retail discs with MLU. David Shope, the director of sales and marketing at Innova, said, “We want the public to have access to the disc that MLU will play with on the field. You would be able to go to your local retailer and buy the official disc of MLU.”

Every Pulsar available in stores — Innova is carried in big retailers like Eastern Mountain Sports and Dick’s Sporting Goods — will have “official disc of the MLU” stamped on it, explained Nic Darling, VP of the MLU.

The Pulsar has long been approved for use in USA Ultimate games, but has never been a major player in the sport. Innova is much better known for their disc golf offerings.

“We’ve been looking to legitimize our reputation within the Ultimate world,” said Shope. “If you’re familiar with Innova you know we are the major player in the disc golf world.”

The Pulsar is not a lot different than the Ultrastar — both have a very similar shape and weigh 175 grams. Both Shope and Darling said that top players won’t have much trouble adjusting to the slightly different mold. Shope did say that their disc, as compared to the Ultrastar, is more stable. “It will hold the line on which it’s released,” he said, as opposed to turning over during flight.

At the recent tryouts for the New York Rumble, the players played with Innova discs. Lu Wang, an NYU graduate who finished as a Metro East 2nd team All-Region player in his senior year, was at the tryout and described the Pulsar. “It’s better than Wham-O, definitely,” he said. “But it doesn’t feel as comfortable as Discraft, for sure. When I first picked it up, it felt weirder and lighter. But after a couple of days, it felt normal.”

“The Innova disc is more stable and will fly farther without tailing off,” said Justin Becker, Head Coach of the Portland Stags in a statement. “This will make the game more exciting by allowing the deep game to be more effective, and give our players the chance to prove how athletic they are.”

The MLU did have to think hard about moving away from Discraft, perhaps the most recognized brand in Ultimate gear.

“In the end, our job is to do what’s best for the league and for our players and for our longevity,” said Darling. “And we felt that Innova was the right way to go. We had to, I think as a league, set aside some of the prejudices we held as players and think about what was the best thing for our league. I won’t say that [the question of moving away from Discraft] didn’t arise in our discussions, because it did. But we had to choose the path that was best for our particular league and our particular application.”

They were very pleased with Innova’s responsiveness and turnaround time, and feel that they are committed to making their partnership a big success.

“I think both MLU and Innova would love to see the Pulsar have a greater reach into the Ultimate market,” said Shope. “I think MLU can help do that by recognizing it as the elite players’ disc.”

Photo courtesy of David Sieling.

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About Charlie Eisenhood

Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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  • anon

    That was a terrible move if you’re trying to cater to the ultimate community. Hope the money was worth it…

    • anon

      Not sure you speak for the entire ultimate community. Sounds like a bold move to me. A company that is responsive to feedback from players in their design process, quick order turnaround time, retail presence at EMS and Walmart. Guess we’ll see what some of the best players in the game have to say about the disc.

  • C

    well there goes any chance of the mlu…

    • Justin Fereshetian

      You honestly think that the MLU will struggle just because it doesn’t use the Ultra-Star? I think that’s ridiculous, if you read the article you’ll see that Innova worked really hard to listen to player and coaches feedback and made several different models based off of the feedback they got. If a company is that receptive to feedback that they are willing to update their product to improve it, then that is a fantastic thing, they are not just settling with what they’ve done, they want to make it better, that’s a good thing. Not only that but the massive distribution they have over Discraft is great. I’m not going to pass judgement on this disc before I get a chance to throw it myself, I’m looking forward to picking one up soon.

  • anon

    Having never heard of it, USAU approval of this disc was news to me. Sorry, fail. Not approved: http://www.usaultimate.org/shop/

    • anon

      Learn to search better:

      http://www.usaultimate.org/news/default.aspx?ArticleId=2854

      Approval pending back in 2012. I’d assume if Innova is saying its approved, that approval probably went forward.

      • http://www.ultiworld.com/ Charlie Eisenhood

        I spoke with USA Ultimate yesterday — it is still not approved. It is “in the approval process.”

  • Mula

    It’s all about the money money money, we just want your money money money… (that’s how the song goes, right?)

    • anon

      Yep…. SELLOUTS. No way they can say it’s a better disc, it was all about the money, not what the players want, not what’s the best product. I’m not supporting this greed-first league.

      • anon

        Right. The league needs to make some money to operate and put a product on the field. You sound like a petulant child.

        Here you go, buttercup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DksSPZTZES0

        • peter

          I am seriously confused by the sanctimonious uproar over a Pro league choosing a sponsor for its discs. What is the difference whether they chose Discraft (private do) or Innova (private co) discs? why is selling out to want to make a profit by selling said discs? Many teams have tried to put their name on discs to sell them for a profit. Tournaments do the same. This is just on a larger scale.

  • Mike

    why do any of you guys care about the disc? its not like youre playing with it. lol. Unless youre a player on any of these 8 teams, stop complaining.

  • Ryan Nation

    Why would this make any difference to the ultimate community at large? Outside of the players actually using this disc no one else is impacted by this announcement. If they had played with them without this announcement you never would have even known. So the idea that the MLU is doomed, or that the ultimate community won’t support them due to their choice of disc brand, is simply idiotic.

    • Anonymous for life

      I’m guessing mlu wants to sell some merchandise. Thinking the ultimate community is going to be buying a lot of nondiscraft discs is simply idiotic.

      • Ryan Nation

        Sure they want to sell some merchandise, and there are a lot more people outside of the ultimate community that in it.

    • MMDFA

      True, I just see this as the MLU being too eager to differentiate. I think there would be much more momentum behind these leagues if there was a ‘unified’ league.

  • Colin

    The Pulsar was also the official disc of Goaltimate, wasn’t it? Included with the Goaltimate kits? I had one (also a SuperNova) that I threw around some in 2000 or so, when I first started playing. Not as stable as the Flashflight, more stable than the Ultrastar, by my recollection. I remember the Ultrastar was more natural to grip for me. But there wasn’t anything about the Pulsar that prevented me from throwing it or catching it. Same can’t be said for attempts to play Ultimate with the Zephyr.

  • SarcastaBot

    This feels like a fanbase hedge. MLU has likely locked up some player/spectators with the all high level talent they are signing; this move will alienate some of those player/spectators (despite the fact that it has no effect on them as spectators, it just feels like a betrayal) but having MLU in every Dick’s Sporting Goods store across the country might help bring in casual spectators and bring some perception of legitimacy from the general public.

  • Anon

    You know what? I feel bad for MLU and AUDL. They push the boundaries of Ultimate and the community stands up to show what a bunch of whiners they are.

    To think people would be loyal to Discraft is mind boggling. I have bought discs from them before and they’re response time is HORRIBLE. Their customer service is HORRIBLE. And you know what, the last time they changed their mold was in the 90′s I bet. So you know what, bravo to Innova for working with players to create something new.

    End of the day, the best players are fine with it, so us crappy players can shut up and follow their lead.

    • anon

      To think people still don’t know the difference between they’re and their is also mind boggling.

      • anon

        To think people will think you’re cool for pointing out someone’s grammatical mistake is also mind boggling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tenk283 Daniel Clenton

    sick work by both of them…

    Having “the official disc of the MLU” in stores is an awesome move. Makes the sport more legit. Don’t see ultrastars in any major stores…

    What we should be judging discs on is their performance, if the innova performs as advertised, sign me up. We shouldn’t be judging on whether it has a discraft stamp or not. Discraft have had a monopoly too long and they need to realize they do actually have to put some effort in.

    • Andrew

      I’m also excited about the MLU/Innova partnership. They’ve sold me at least one pulsar by doing this. However, I don’t think Discraft needs to change anything. It’s the consistency of the Ultrastar that has won the loyalty of the Ultimate community.

      • Anon

        When there’s one product on the market it’s hard to say whether its loyalty or simply a monopoly. Now that there’s some competition i guess we’ll see what happens.

  • anon

    It probably was easy for them to select the Pulsar after Discraft told them they wouldn’t give them anything until they proved their staying power as an organization.

    • anon

      If true, thats not good thinking by Discraft. Now instead of the MLU proving their staying power as an organization, Discraft will have to start proving its own staying power as well. They’ve opened the door and let a competitor with a vastly superior distribution network get a slice of the market.

      Before yesterday, very few people even knew an Innova ultimate disc existed. Now people are talking about trying it out. So Discraft can try to act like the superior organization here, but i think this just might bite them in the ass. How big a chunk remains to be seen.

    • Anon

      If that statement is true, which I’m not sure how you would know that unless you were with Discraft, then Discraft are IDIOTS! Why would you let a competitor into the scene?!?!?!

      I’m sure MLU’s first choice was discraft but it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if discraft blew the deal. Being someone who has dealt with discraft and hosted tournaments. Their delivery times and customer service SUCKS!

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