Elway, Sharpe win AdvantEdge with $10 mil supplement effort

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It used to be hard to find a star athlete who didn't have a sports shoe commercial. Now, it's difficult to find one without a role plugging nutritional supplements.

EAS, the Golden-Colo. supplement marketer, next month launches an estimated $10 million TV and print campaign featuring former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and his ex-teammate Shannon Sharpe, now with the Baltimore Ravens.

The athletes will tout EAS' fledgling AdvantEdge line of nutrition bars and protein drinks, which are rolling out nationally in mass-market retailers. The commercials were shot July 17, under the Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television and Radio Artists' interim agreement.


EAS is one of a handful of supplement marketers to use elite athletes in national ads. MetRx recently tapped New York Giant football star Jason Sehorn and boxer Oscar de la Hoya for ads and is in negotiations with New York Yankee Roger Clemens to serve as pitchman. In June, Twinlab launched an effort with tennis great Andre Agassi. Earlier this month, Hansen Beverage Co. used Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa in a print effort for its Energy line of sports drinks.

The increase in sports stars doing supplement ads comes as shoe marketers facing sluggish sales -- most notably Reebok International -- have opted to cut down on the high-price endorsement contracts athletes demand.

EAS' entry into the surging quick-and-easy nutrition market marks a transformation for the company, which established itself selling niche supplements aimed at bodybuilders in stores such as GNC.

"There are a lot of people who aren't ready for GNC," said Jim Heidenreich, EAS' VP-marketing. "We want to make it convenient and less threatening for those people."

AdvantEdge will run a TV and print effort, with the bulk of its spending directed toward a cross-media buy with ABC and ESPN. The deal allows EAS to run TV spots on college football telecasts as well as "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football"; place ads in ESPN the Magazine and on ESPN.com; and serve as title sponsor of ABC's Pigskin Classic college football game.


EAS began laying the groundwork for the launch of AdvantEdge in March when it ran an acclaimed national spot on the Academy Awards broadcast that featured a female morphing into a well-toned woman before viewers' eyes. That spot plugged EAS as a brand, not the AdvantEdge line specifically.

Sales of nutritional supplements are soaring.

Information Resources Inc. figures, which do not include the popular health-food store channel, show sales in the weight control/

nutritional category at $1.1 billion for the 52 weeks ended June 18, up 9% over the same period a year ago. Well-known marketers recently have made moves in the category with Kraft Foods buying Balance Bar and Nestle USA purchasing Power Bar.

EAS is positioning AdvantEdge as a more nutritious option than diet products such as Unilever's Slim-Fast and is partly targeting so-called "weekend warriors" in the 25-54 age range "smart nutrition for active people."

In the three 30-second EAS spots, Messrs. Elway and Sharpe are seen slightly out of their element on a golf course. The athletes Messrs. Elway and Sharpe are seen slightly out of their element on a golf course. The athletes play off the brand name by referring to an advantage gained on the links from AdvantEdge.

In one spot, Mr. Elway offers to give Mr. Sharpe, who is all thumbs at golf, a two-stroke lead.

"Yeah, but you have an advantage," Mr. Sharpe replies.

"You're right," Mr. Elway responds, "I had one earlier . . . it's the right balance of protein and carbs."


EAS has been linked with the Denver Broncos for several years. In a grassroots effort, the company would give products to players and sign them as endorsers; as a result, the EAS initials became fixtures on the team sidelines on hats and T-shirts, often captured on TV and by print photographers.

EAS does its advertising in-house with the assistance of Phelan Productions, Denver. As the AdvantEdge line grows, Mr. Heidenreich said, a review might be launched for a full-service agency.

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