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Flips headphones designed to transform wrestling

Mark Palmer

11/14/2013
Mark Palmer, InterMat Senior Writer
mark@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @MatWriter

You've undoubtedly seen Flips Wrestling headphones ... in person, being worn by wrestlers while working out or waiting matside for their match, or online, or even on ESPN broadcasts. These headphones with their unique "solo 2 social" design transform from a single-user listening experience (solo) to a crowd listening experience (social) with a simple flip.

That's not the only transformation Flips can perform. This new product, created by a team that includes former wrestler/coach Rocco Mansueto, is designed to transform wrestling, by supporting the sport overall, and individual athletes as well.

Flips headphones: Solo 2 Social

The Flips Wrestling website uses words like "revolutionary" and "unique" to describe the Flips headphones that let users experience music on their own, or share with others. The website goes on to say that Flips are the only headphones available today that instantly change from a personal listening experience for one, to, in the words of the website, "an amp'd up speaker for a listening experience for a group."

When the ear cups are turned in toward the head, only the user can listen -- what Flips Wrestling refers to as "solo" mode. When the user flips the ear cups outward, it's "social" mode that lets others listen. The user doesn't need to adjust the volume when switching from "solo" to "social" -- or back again; Flips does it automatically. The sound is amplified into the speakers only when pointed away from the listener's ears.

Flips headphones offer additional features, such as high-definition sound quality, a lithium ion battery that's USB rechargeable, comfortable design, and the convenience of folding into a compact unit that fits into its standard carry case.

Meet Rocco Mansueto

Rocco Mansueto, one of the four members of the Flips Wrestling management team, has roots deep in wrestling. He was a two-time New York state champ who headed west to Cleveland State, where he wrestled from 1998-2003. As a Viking wrestler, Mansueto was a three-time NCAA Division I qualifier, and EWL (Eastern Wrestling League) titlewinner.

After earning his bachelor degree at CSU, Mansueto stayed in the Cleveland area, serving as a graduate assistant coach at John Carroll University. Later, he returned to his native New York State, where he continued his coaching career at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, then, for the past four years, as an assistant at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga until leaving the coaching staff this summer to focus on building the Flips Wrestling business.

How coaching applies to the corporate world

Mansueto sees his coaching background as applicable to launching Flips Wrestling.

"In the last five years, I have learned there are traits acquired from coaching, such as interpersonal skills, recruiting -- that you can use in any professional career," Mansueto told InterMat. "I helped in developing the marketing approach for the UTC wrestling program and our events, such as the Southern Scuffle. Now I am doing the same for Flips Wrestling."

College coaching is a lot like running a small LLC (company)," Mansueto continued. "You have to wear at least ten hats."

Mansueto is quick to point out that Flips Wrestling is very much a team effort. There are four principals in Flips Wrestling: Mansueto; CEO Don Beshada; Mike Jones; and Mark Schey. According to Mansueto, three of the four have amateur wrestling backgrounds.

How Flips came about

The four business partners sought to create a unique product that would stand out in the marketplace.

"We noticed that just about every wrestler wears Beats by Dr. Dre," according to Mansueto. "That was a starting point in terms of coming up with a product that would be uniquely positioned to wrestlers."

"One of our partners asked, 'Why not headphones that could become speakers?'" Mansueto continued. "An organization called Idea Village came up with the product. They have ownership of the idea."

Product development was underway long before any marketing efforts were launched.

In the past six months, Flips Wrestling has been building its marketing approach to the wrestling community, starting with social media.

"I perceive branding as a fundamental," Mansueto told InterMat. "UTC helped me understand the benefits of grassroots marketing."

The Flips Wrestling "team"

A fundamental element of Flips Wrestling's marketing efforts is to reinvest in wrestling, and pump back resources to the sport. To that end, Flips built a team of seven wrestlers: Jordan Burroughs, Jordan Oliver, Frank Molinaro, Reece Humphrey, Coleman Scott, Jake Herbert, and Nick Simmons.

When asked if there was a conscious effort to recruit a roster of wrestlers with diverse backgrounds in terms of where they're from and where they wrestled in college, Mansueto basically said that was a happy accident. The real criteria for picking the Flips team, according to Mansueto: "All of our guys are aggressive, exciting to watch. When they compete, they put on a show."

The relationship between Flips and the wrestlers is very much a two-way street: Flips gains instant credibility with wrestlers and fans by using accomplished wrestlers in its marketing efforts ... while the wrestlers themselves benefit from Flips' support in various ways. Or, as Mansueto said, "Having these guys on board is very important to our business, but it's also very important to help them fully realize opportunities to succeed."

"We saw that we could help athletes in various ways, for instance, by opening the door for other sponsorships."

"It's all about them doing well."

"It's important for us to reinvest in the wrestling community, and pump back resources to the sport," continued Mansueto.

Jordan Burroughs wore Flips at the World Championships (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
"We want to build relationships with wrestling by understanding the thinking of athletes, and connect with the mind-frame of a wrestler."

"Once we landed Jordan Burroughs and Jordan Oliver, we immediately knew we had to be first class in our image," said Mansueto. "Jordan Burroughs dictates a lot of our direction."

Burroughs, two-time NCAA champ at the University of Nebraska who has made a name for himself in freestyle by winning the gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics -- bracketed by World championships in 2011 and 2013 -- is the one wrestler in Flips Wrestling's roster that many fans may think of first, thanks to his appearing in Flips commercials on ESPN.

As seen on TV ... and beyond

"We saw our ESPN commercial as an awesome opportunity to showcase Jordan Burroughs and his talent, not the product itself," Mansueto told InterMat.

By extension, by featuring Burroughs -- a wrestler whose accomplishments are known and respected beyond the wrestling community -- Flips Wrestling extends its marketing efforts to a larger stage ... by generating buzz that goes outside the wrestling world.



Beyond the ESPN commercial, Flips Wrestling's marketing efforts incorporate social media, as well as strategic efforts involving major wrestling events that gain valuable, priceless exposure for the new product.

"We've been able to create custom headphones," said Mansueto. "For example, for Jordan Burroughs. We've put out teaser Tweets about it but haven't put out formal marketing. We see this customization as an opportunity for us. Someday we'd like to create custom headphones for specific teams. Finding ways to make our headphones unique for teams, and individuals."

"In addition, we've been able to partner with various events -- the Midlands, Southern Scuffle, Who's No. 1, NWCA All-Star Classic, Grapple at the Garden 2. For example, at the All-Stars, winners of the Outstanding Wrestler awards received Flips."

There are unique challenges for Flips Wrestling to overcome.

"With electronics, people want to love you, trust you," according to Mansueto. "Our grassroots efforts have helped us build trust for our products. We want the wrestling community to know that we offer a quality product, that is ingrained with the best wrestlers, and the biggest events, and that we support the sport."

"If our product is successful, we could serve as a role model for any company to market to the wrestling community -- a business model, if you will."

"I want people to buy our product because it's an awesome product, not because of our athletes, or the way we support their efforts and the sport overall."

"We want to grow. Sales will ensure our continued growth."

To learn more about Flips headphones, visit the website (www.flipswrestling.com), and connect on Twitter @flipswrestling. Readers can also contact Rocco Mansueto directly via email at Rocco@FlipsWrestling.com.

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