Locked out of major-league endorsements, Biosteel courts up-and-comers

Our editors taste the bright pink sports drink and talk strategy for a product with serious marketing barriers

In his feature published today on the Canadian-made sports drink Biosteel, John Lorinc recounts how Biosteel—unable to secure endorsements from big-name NHL players because of pre-existing sponsorship deals with giant competitor Gatorade—is making inroads with promising up-and-comers instead:

Being technically locked out of the NHL proper, BioSteel focused its efforts on signing endorsement deals with up-and-coming athletes, both in hockey and other professional sports. The company signed a deal with Andrew Wiggins, the number one pick in the 2014 NBA draft. (The Thornhill, Ont., forward, now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, is a solid contender for Rookie of the Year.) Meanwhile, Celenza, who continues to scout for new marketing “properties,” figured the firm could sponsor a Canadian high school all-star basketball game, modelled on a similar event McDonald’s sponsors in the U.S. Celenza met with organizers at Canada Basketball and offered product instead of money. With basketball’s star rising in Canada, due to the success of NBA drafts like Wiggins, Celenza reckons he’ll be in a position to associate BioSteel with the stars of tomorrow, and gain TV coverage (TSN is broadcasting the event, which takes place in Toronto this April).

The strategy of targeting trainers and younger players assumes they’ll become boosters for the long haul. Consider BioSteel’s endorsement deal with NHL prospect Connor McDavid; the captain of the OHL’s Erie Otters has been touted as the next Sidney Crosby. Celenza insists he’s not worried about losing McDavid to a richer offer offer once he turns pro: “Connor’s not going anywhere, and he’d be the first to tell you that.”

In this video, Canadian Business deputy editor David Fielding and executive editor Carol Toller talk about the strategy behind Biosteel’s marketing, and put the bright-pink drink to the taste-test.

Read the full story: Goodbye Gatorade: how Biosteel is (very quietly) taking over the NHL