The Olympic’s opening ceremony didn’t have as many viewers as previous openers, but it was still watched by 26.5 million Americans last Friday. If you were one of them (and didn’t fast-forward through the commercials), you probably saw an ad for Walmart that blasted Aerosmith’s “Dream On” over video of American factory workers. It was part of the retail giant’s 10-year commitment to buy $250 billion in American-made goods. Walmart made the pledge in 2013, and while the company won’t reveal an exact figure, says it is on track to meet its goal.
The commercial featured one of the US-based factories that has helped Walmart meet that goal. Lifetime Products, based in Clearfield, Utah, was founded in 1986 when founder Barry Mower built an adjustable basketball hoop for his family. Anyone who has come of age after that either had one or had a neighbor who did. With the push of a button (usually thanks to a broom handle), adults and kids alike could adjust the height of the rim from 7 feet to NBA-regulation 10-feet and anywhere in between.
Lifetime claims it is still “the world’s leading manufacturer of residential basketball equipment,” and since 1986, has expanded to products such as outdoor furniture, swing sets and kayaks. They became a Walmart supplier soon after launching.
Lifetime’s current President and CEO, Richard Hendricksen, began as an overnight welder with the company in 1988. He was rising through the ranks at the company when off-shoring became a more common practice in the 1990s. “We had some tough decisions to make,” Hendrickson notes about that time at the company. “We really struggled to continue competing and stay in the US, and keep our jobs in the US, specifically in [the basketball] category. And we did. We stayed. We didn’t ever leave with basketball.”
While many other Lifetime-made products did get off-shored, 60% of the company’s manufacturing is done stateside under Hendrickson. He hopes to increase that number with a second plant set to open in Tennessee. The company’s kayaks, he notes, “are very much a U.S. product.”
Perhaps this is why Walmart chose to feature Lifetime in its Olympics ad. “Many of [Walmart’s] people have been through our facility,” he says. “After Walmart … visited thousands of facilities all over the US, they chose our factory as one that I think has great people, great processes, a great product… It’s a great sense of pride, as you can imagine.”