Beyond Meat campaign stars investor and NBA star Kyrie Irving

He's one several athletes investing in the vegan brand before it goes public

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Beyond Meat Inc. is putting one of its newer investors, National Basketball Association star Kyrie Irving, in the center of its new paid media push as the vegan food maker gears up to go public.

The Boston Celtics star is featured in the "Go Beyond" digital campaign breaking Wednesday, which is the 10-year-old company's first substantial paid media push.

A video featuring Irving starts off with the NBA star talking about how when he was in fourth grade he wrote down his goal of playing pro basketball. Viewers who miss the opening seconds might mistake the video for a Nike spot rather than one for a food company, save for imagery such as the new green Beyond Meat logo in the corner and on a cap. Irving only briefly mentions his diet toward the end of the 60-second clip.

Beyond Burger packaging by a meat case
Beyond Burger packaging by a meat case Credit: Beyond Meat

The brand's updated logo, meant to look like a caped bull or steer, has been around in various ways for years, says founder and CEO Ethan Brown. Now, it's front and center, including on the cap Irving wears in the campaign. Brown, for one, has high expectations for the updated look.

"I love the subtle nature of it and the challenge to our company: can it become a universally recognized icon, like the Nike swoosh, do we really need to use our name every time we market?" Brown asks rhetorically. "I personally don't like wearing gear with brand names scrawled on them but I do really enjoy wearing logos that mean something to me as a consumer."

Beyond Meat has already gotten plenty of attention from athletes watching what they eat.

Beyond Irving, other new investors include a variety of retired and current sports stars: Shaquille O'Neill, Chris Paul, DeAndre Hopkins, Victor Oladipo, Lindsey Vonn, DeAndre Jordan, Harrison Barnes, Shaun White and Luke Walton. They follow other athletes who have invested in the company including JJ Redick, Tony Gonzales, David Wright, Eric Bledsoe, Maya Moore and Tia Blanco, as well entertainers such as Snoop Dogg, Common, Jessica Chastain, Liza Koshy and Leonardo DiCaprio. Even former McDonald's CEO Don Thompson sits on the Beyond Meat board of directors and invests through his venture capital firm Cleveland Avenue.

"We don't think people will stop eating meat," says Brown. "Rather, we strongly believe that we should transition the source of meat, moving from animal-based meats to plant-based meats."

Beyond Meat, which uses proteins from peas and soy among other ingredients, is growing but still tiny compared to the more traditional animal-based protein players. It counts Tyson Foods as an investor and competes against the likes of Impossible Foods Inc., which is also eager to attract vegetarians and meat eaters to its products. Beyond Meat products are sold at a variety of grocers such as Kroger and Whole Foods Market. Its Beyond Burgers are on the menus at restaurants including Carl's Jr. and TGI Fridays in the U.S., and at A&W in Canada. In all, its products are in nearly 20 countries. After adding products such as Beyond Sausage to its lineup, Beyond Meat may go after other products in a traditional butcher case, such as cuts like bacon and steak, says Brown.

The 10-year-old company filed for an initial public offering in November. It declined to comment on the status or timing of the IPO. While it hasn't generated a profit yet, Beyond Meat posted $56.4 million in revenue in the first nine months of 2018, up from $21.1 million in the first nine months of 2017.

The company says it worked with Stun and Roadside Entertainment on its new marketing efforts.

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