Energy drink effort stars slugger Sosa

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Baseball's been berry, berry good to Sammy Sosa, and now the slugger wants to be berry good for Hansen Beverage Co. The Major League Baseball home run hero is starring in a print campaign breaking July 10 in ESPN the Magazine for the New Age beverage marketer's Energy line of sports drinks and smoothies.

The campaign spoofs Dairy Management Inc.'s well-known "Got milk?" campaign. Mr. Sosa sports a green mustache in the ad, which is tagged "Got Energy?"

Outdoor advertising using the same theme broke earlier, and radio spots and a consumer sweepstakes for the first-ever Sammy Sosa Fantasy Baseball Camp will round out the campaign, created by the Larson Group, Irvine, Calif.


The Sosa effort leans on credibility, said Rodney Ackes, Hansen chairman-CEO, explaining that the heart of the campaign rides on the endorsement and use of Energy by Mr. Sosa. "Sammy uses the product," Mr. Ackes said. "You can't get a better endorsement than that. That healthy, clean and well-liked image met our requirements head on. It's an ideal marriage for us."

Unlike Chicago Cubs fans, Hansen doesn't have to worry about which team Mr. Sosa is playing for. He appeared to be heading for the New York Yankees last week, but while he wears a baseball uniform in the advertising, no team logo is shown.

"Sammy is ready to go to bat for Hansen's with any team he's on," said a spokeswoman for the Corona, Calif.-based company, adding that the slugger approached the beverage company about a deal.

A move to the Yankees could also boost Mr. Sosa's endorsement potential.

"New York is the media capital of world, and Sammy is an icon," said Rick Nunley, marketing manager for Player's Choice International, which negotiates endorsements through Mr. Sosa's business manager, Domingo Dauhajre.

Mr. Sosa recently has signed a number of endorsement deals, including one for Buster Brown shoes, and Mr. Nunley said more deals will be announced in the coming weeks.

Hansen already was enjoying strong sales without Mr. Sosa. Sales for its portfolio of fruit drinks, teas and energy drinks grew 33% to $72 million in 1999 on a relatively small marketing budget. The company spent $1.24 million on media in 1999, Mr. Ackes said.


While considered a niche player in the beverage category, Hansen's share in supermarket sales grew 0.3 point to 2% in 1999 within the single-serve New Age beverage segment, according to Information Resources Inc.

Hansen is betting its numbers will improve even more with Mr. Sosa, which would be good news for the baseball star. Mr. Sosa's three-year, seven-figure deal includes a slice of Energy's profits. If sales exceed the 2000 projections made after the endorsement deal was signed, Mr. Sosa will get a percentage of those excess profits, Mr. Ackes said. So far, sales have been up more than 30% from last year, said the CEO, who noted that the returns are just starting.

"We have the benefit of the thrust of this whole campaign to come in third quarter," he said.

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