ON N.J. SPORTS MARKETING
The serial entrepreneurs behind the Sheets Energy Strip brand are no strangers to star power or the value of viral marketing. Guys like Jesse Itzler and Warren Struhl (founder of Englewood-based Dale and Thomas Popcorn) have made big bucks growing viral brands in consumer and commercial marketing for years, and are people who always seem to be ahead of the curve with trends in consumer activation. Now they have turned their focus to the energy “drink” market, mixing in traditional consumer market with celebrity and viral activation to try and take hold of the space.
“Sheets” is certainly different from competitors like Five Hour Energy or any of the hundreds of liquid refreshers in the marketplace. It is a simple concept, one that breath refreshers like Listerine and pharma companies with headache remedies have grabbed with great success. It is fast, easy to use and very consumer friendly. But the space is crowded, and just because a product is unique in delivery doesn’t make it successful on its own. Even coveted shelf space in consumer locations may not be enough to catch the eye and change consumer habits for a product that could be high volume but not high cost. So what did “Sheets” do to break through?
They launched their campaign via viral video, using the Denver Nuggets Danilo Galinari in a mock lockerroom press conference where he discussed his secret for success on the court, “Taking a Sheet.” It was lighthearted and played on the phrase the product would use across all its platforms going forward, and was launched well in advance of the launch at the consumer level, creating some fun anticipation for the launch.
The concept, more than the product was pushed first. Following launch, the founders then brought in a series of athletes, comedians, and other entertainers, some with equity, all with a strong social presence and solid street cred in their communities, to help grow awareness. The social and celebrity push accompanied traditional marketing to the consumer, as well as a growing shelf space presence in consumer package goods stores where energy drinks and products were sold, especially to a younger demo. The brand also took their combined message directly to the retail stores by doing media events in stores in conjunction with an expanded launch.
There has been no hard sell on the medicinal value of “Sheets,” as some other energy products have tried. There is no long message, and thus far no traditional TV or radio. The most recent move was sponsoring the first college hoops event at the still to be opened Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 2012, a cost efficient partnership which may not bear fruit until next year, but one that gets the brand a toe-hold in a new arena complex which is big on hype and promoting its partners in every way possible. Great bang for the “Sheets” buck, while speaking to a younger, urban audience.
The message is clear for “Sheets.” It is different, faster, and more fun than many of the energy products out there, and their ties with celebs from all walks of life make it a brand that appeals to everyone. Its promotions have given it brand recognition in the marketplace against heavily marketed mainstays, much in the way Vitamin Water’s irreverent viral campaigns helped given them a toehold at launch. Will “Sheets” succeed on the commercial level? Remains to be seen, as the consumer they are going after has a short memory and a tendency to fly to the next hot trend. However from a launch standpoint, “Sheets” has hit all the right chords—fun, viral, easy to understand, and well placed in the consumer landscape.
You may not care for energy products, but you should care, or give a “sheet” for the way the product is being brought to market in such a crowded and fickle landscape. Smart play by smart businesspeople.
Joe Favorito has over 24 years of strategic communications/marketing, business development and public relations expertise in sports, entertainment, brand building, media training, television, athletic administration and business. Visit him at JoeFavorito.com.