Mistakes have been made, but they’re acceptable. So is spending a lot of money to spend a brand.
At least, that’s the assessment of Mike Repole, the chairman of Body Armor, who earlier today revealed that he and company founder Lance Collins, along with their other investors, are willing to spend approximately $50 million over a 4-5 year period to market and build their year-old brand of “superdrink.”
“If I was coming out with a beverage right now, I wouldn’t want to compete with Body Armor,” Repole told BevNET as part of an exclusive interview, prompted by the release of a redesigned packaging scheme and a new flavor, Fruit Punch.
The bold statement came after a year in which the brand cycled through several packaging changes, struggled to get some of its flavors right and killed off a tea-based sub-line with little mercy. According to Repole, who reportedly walked away from Coca-Cola Co.’s purchase of Glaceau with a nine-figure payout, it’s all part of the process.
“I think all successful brands go through some kind of evolution,” he said. “When you create a brand, you have an idea directionally where you want to go, but when it hits the shelves, that first year you learn more about it even than when you were creating it.”
Collins expressed similar sentiments in October during the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show. telling BevNET that the year had provided lessons that had turned the year into “a discovery period.”
Among those lessons from the first year, according to Repole: a full-wrap bottle can look good, but if consumers can’t open the bottle because of the wrap, that’s a deterrent. Turning a positive into a negative (“it’s an evolution,” notes Repole), the new package touts a black “easy open” cap that also allows more color to move to the front of the bottle — which, it should be noted, also makes the black-outlined breastplate shape on the front of previous bottles into more of a “Y” shape, and less of a potential visual cognate to clothing brand Under Armour, which is in the middle of a lawsuit against Body Armor for trade dress infringement.
“The purpose of changing the packaging was about getting rid of the over-wrap,” Repole said. “Once we took it off, we had that black cap, and all of a sudden it had too much black on the front, so we could go for a sleeker, cleaner look,” with more color.
Another lesson that the brand is playing off of actively is that it seems to be hitting home with an age group of 15- to 30-year-olds, with a skew toward the male side — not surprising for a brand that has signed up brawny football and baseball players like Mike Trout, LeSean McCoy, Ray Rice and Rob Grownkoski as its “superteam.”
“It’s for athletes, both at a recreational level and what we also call ‘business athletes,'” he said. The brand is using “Superior Nutrition and Superior Hydration” as its formulation bona fides, attempting to distill its varied ingredients — vitamins, antioxidants, coconut water, other electrolytes — into a simpler message.
Flavors, as well, have been distilled into simpler, more mainstream varieties, including Tropical Citrus, Strawberry Banana, Orange Mango, Blueberry Pomegranate, and Raspberry Blueberry.
The focus isn’t a result of disappointing results; the brand had sales between $5 million and $10 million in 2012, Repole confirmed — sales that he said were more than both Vitaminwater and co-creator Collins’ Fuze sold in their first two years on the market combined.
Since those two products were resold to Coke at huge multiples of their sales, Repole believes the investment is worth it, and he and Collins are working their distributors to make sure they are on board. Tomorrow, a group of them are meeting in Los Angeles to see the new product and the new look.
Those distributors will also be representative of a simplified — although spend-heavy — go-to-market strategy, with 10 markets in place as the keys to proving that the brand can continue to grow. The company’s 50-plus employees are slated to focus on New York, the New York metropolitan area, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, with sales and marketing teams in each area, and more hires on tap.
It’s a number that few nascent beverage companies ever reach before they’ve proved that they can generate strong and steady revenues, let alone in the first year, but Repole said the investment behind the brand isn’t going to stop, and that next summer the employee count would be significantly higher.
When asked if there was a scenario in which the spending might slow, he said, “I can’t see that, but I might double down.”
The Body Armor press release is below:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shaun Clair
DBC PR + New Media
BODYARMOR SUPERDRINK™ EVOLVES PACKAGING AND ADDS SUPER FLAVOR: FRUIT PUNCH
Los Angeles (January 9, 2013) – BODYARMOR SuperDrink™ announces today that they are beginning the new year with a pair of super enhancements: an evolved packaging look and an exciting new flavor addition – Fruit Punch.
Fruit Punch becomes the sixth flavor in the BODYARMOR SuperDrink™ lineup, along with these delicious flavors: Tropical Citrus, Strawberry Banana, Orange Mango, Blueberry Pomegranate, and Raspberry Blueberry. Like the other flavors, Fruit Punch contains the brand’s superior nutrition and hydration formula, which provides more than twice the electrolytes of the leading sports drink (with as much potassium as a banana and 10% coconut water), 100% daily value of antioxidant vitamins A, C, E and 200% daily value of B-vitamins.
The packaging evolution incorporates athlete feedback to include an “easy-open” top that allows for quicker, easier access during exercise or competition. The packaging also includes a slight visual evolution to offer a sleeker, more colorful design.
“We’re confident our Fruit Punch will become a top selling item for BODYARMOR SuperDrink in 2013,” said Mike Repole, Chairman, BODYARMOR SuperDrink. “Fruit Punch is a perennial favorite among consumers on and off the field and BODYARMOR SuperDrink’s Fruit Punch flavor beats any others on the market in delivering great taste and nutrition.”
“Our evolved packaging enhances both the functionality and visuals behind BODYARMOR SuperDrink,” said Lance Collins, Founder and CEO of BODYARMOR SuperDrink. “Our new ‘easy-open’ top helps consumers everywhere enjoy BODYARMOR’s superior nutrition and hydration. The new packaging visuals will help the brand gain shelf prominence to attract consumers to the superior benefits inside the bottle.”
BODYARMOR SuperDrink enters 2013 with its roster of professional athlete partners including baseball sensation Mike Trout and top gridiron stars Rob Gronkowski, LeSean McCoy, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ray Rice.
About BODYARMOR Nutrition, LLC:?Award-winning entrepreneur and beverage industry veteran, Lance Collins, creator of FUZE Beverage and NOS Energy Drink (sold to the Coca-Cola Company in 2007) brings new innovation to the beverage marketplace with BODYARMOR SuperDrink. Leadership includes Chairman Mike Repole, co-founder and president of vitaminwater (also sold to Coca-Cola in 2007). Each bottle of BODYARMORSuperDrink is formulated with Superior Nutrition and Superior Hydration. BODYARMOR SuperDrink™ has twice the electrolytes of the leading sports drink and is loaded with as much potassium as a banana, antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E, as well as B vitamins. BODYARMOR SuperDrink™ is sold by select convenience, natural foods, fitness, drug, and grocery retailers across the country.