BioSteel next up for NHL sports drink rights

My esteemed colleague John Ourand opened his newsletter yesterday expressing affinity for the Nationals, who are — remarkably — already 20 games under .500. Whither his lifelong fandom for the Orioles (35-40)? Next, he’ll be forsaking his beloved Maryland crabs for New England lobsters, which, after all, are the superior crustacean.

“Old minds are like old horses; you must exercise them if you wish to keep them in working order.” — John Adams

With the NHL season now resolved, industry sources said sports drink brand BioSteel is close to taking the wraps off a new NHL league sponsorship, with rights taking effect next season. The deal marks BioSteel’s biggest move yet into hockey and comes after PepsiCo’s venerable Gatorade brand couldn’t agree on a price with the league and walked away from the rights it held since 2006.

Coca-Cola had NHL rights for its Powerade sports drink from 1997-2006, a move which also ousted Gatorade from the NHL.

Securing NHL rights marks the end of a long quest for hockey intellectual property by Toronto-based BioSteel, headed by CEO Mike Cammalleri, who played 15 years in the league. BioSteel also has sponsorships with USA Hockey, the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, the NHLPA and a personal deal with two-time league MVP Connor McDavid.

Other notable sports expenditures by BioSteel include sponsorships with the Lakers, Nets, 76ers and Mavericks (including entitlement to the Mavs’ training facility), some NBA2K League and WNBA teams. There’s also an equity deal with Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and a sponsorship with US Soccer (significant in a World Cup year).

It’s a turbulent time in the sports drink market, which has been long dominated by Gatorade (70% market share). With its acquisition of BodyArmor late last year, a brand in which it had bought an 15% stake in 2018, Coke now has two sports drink brands. BioSteel is now fifth in market share, behind Gatorade, Powerade and BodyArmor and Electrolit, according to Gerry Khermouch at Beverage Business Insights. BioSteel told investors earlier this year that it’s aiming at the No. 4 spot in the US; NHL rights are clearly part of its strategy to get there.

There are also some intriguing side notes to this deal.

At a time when CBDs are gaining in popularity and legitimacy (MLB recently approved them as a sponsorship category), Canadian cannabis producer Canopy Growth, which trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol WEED, owns a majority stake of BioSteel. Ready for a CBD drink on NHL benches?

There have been BioSteel-branded CBD supplements on the market for more than two years now. Making the deal even more incestuous is the fact that brewer Constellation Brands owns a majority of Canopy — and any big brewer has considerable influence across pro sports.

I also wrote about the potential for CBDs in sports sponsorship in this week’s SBJ.

CSM has triumphed in an agency review to garner agency-of-record status for DoorDash. The delivery service, which flourished along with the category during the pandemic, has been serviced by several agencies, including Wavemaker.

There’s plenty of IP for CSM to activate against. CSM will support DoorDash’s league sponsorships with the NBA and MLS, along with some team deals. There’s also a NASCAR deal, along with sponsorship of driver Bubba Wallace and a founding-level deal with Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing. The brand also is in IndyCar, where it is presenting sponsor of a July 23 race in Newton, Iowa.

DoorDash is also a jersey sponsor for NWSL club Angel City FC.

  • The PGA of America will amplify the presence of current sponsors at its new HQ, with brands such as Rolex, Gatorade and Pepsi having a campus presence in Frisco, Texas, notes my colleague Eric Prisbell. Ernie Vilar, director of PGA properties partnerships, said they are in the market for a presenting partner for the 12,000-square-foot coaching center and a title partner for the entertainment district, which Vilar envisioned being the “heartbeat” of the campus.
  • The rapidly expanding USL has chosen Legends to support its commercial growth, agreeing to a multi-faceted partnership through 2031, reports SBJ’s Alex Silverman.
  • Bernstein senior analyst Aneesa Sherman notes Nike in the past has been “optimistic about North America,” but yesterday in its Q4 earnings report, there was a “slight change in tone.” There was “more caution.”

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