FRS, a leading U.S. brand of supplement beverages and other products, is experiencing the ups and the downs of powerful celebrity endorsements — simultaneously.
The brand's three leading athlete endorsers are New York Jets Quarterback Tim Tebow, who is beginning to whip up Gotham-sized buzz in his new home; Christie Rampone, a player on the U.S. Olympic Women's Soccer team that is gearing up to compete in London; and Lance Armstrong, whose rep has been crashing down following a new U.S.-government investigation of doping allegations — charges the most legendary cyclist of all-time is vigorously denying.
FRS lately has been broadening its product line beyond its original healthy-energy drink aimed at athletes and athletic wanna-bes, but sports sponsorship remains crucial to its marketing overall.
So brand stewards have been happy to see all the attention paid to Tebow, who endorsed FRS with his entry into the National Football League two years ago after swearing by the original product as a championship-winning quarterback at the University of Florida. Tebow's electric performance with the Denver Broncos last year raised his visibility, and so did his off-season trade to the Jets.
"He's been great for the brand, and he's an authentic user of the product," Matt Kohler, CMO of the Foster City, Calif.-based brand, told brandchannel. FRS received 60 million media impressions alone when Tebow's move to the Jets was announced.
Expect both Tebow and FRS to ratchet media impressions way higher in months to come. Tebow, for instance, gave a Father's Day sermon at a church in San Diego. His much-copied Tebowing gesture is included in the 2013 version of EA Sports' iconic Madden NFL video game. And media and social mavens in Gotham have been working nearly every angle on Tebowmania more than two months before the NFL season starts.
For this fall, Kohler said, FRS is mounting a major marketing campaign in which Tebow's image will appear on all of its products' packaging. The promotion also will include providing coupons for a free bottle or can of FRS. "This will be a significant investment by the company," he said. "We hope that it will be a winner."
Meantime, FRS also is happy to be tied to Rampone heading into the Summer Olympics. The brand will be hosting a satellite media tour focused around the notion of "motherhood as an endurance sport," Kohler said. Rampone has competed in the Olympics four times and in the World Cup, and she has two young children.
Armstrong — an early user, investor and board member of FRS — seems the more problematic athlete endorsement for FRS these days, although the company is taking pains to reiterate its support for the embattled athlete. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said that it is investigating long-festering accusations that the demigod of the Tour de France illegally used performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions to win. But Kohler said that the company has some new promotional plans for Armstrong and still featured the cyclist on its FRS Athletes web page.
"While the investigation continues, the news does not change the brand's relationship with Lance Armstrong," the company told brandchannel. "FRS continues to support Lance and his commitment in raising awareness and fighting the war against cancer as a proud sponsor of the Livestrong Foundation."