**We would like to preface this article by saying that we are or have been a customer of each of these brands (our President even worked at one) in the last few years. We looked at all brands in the sports nutrition industry and did not single out any of these brands based on biases or ill thoughts. Our analysis was purely based on our opinion of the branding trends of the industry and if a brand was a laggard in the area**
July 1st probably means little to much of America besides that the Independence Day parades, BBQ, and parties are right around the corner. In the business world, July 1st marks the start of the second half of the traditional business calendar. It is a date that evokes reflection and marks the time companies are getting started on strategic planning for 2017. The sports nutrition industry is no different and it is probably more focused on strategic planning this time of year because of it’s slightly cyclical behavior. The sports nutrition industry generally does most of its business from December to May because this is the time consumers are focused on getting “fit.” The latter part of the year is usually the time where sales will organically grow much slower and the industry will be focused on “trade show season” to help create interest in their brand.
But what if your brand needs something more than a fancy, expensive trade show booth to create a higher level of consumer interest?
Sometimes these tough conversations need to happen between upper managers of sports nutrition brands. The sports nutrition industry has went through a metamorphosis of what creates brand equity. It has went from being all about the science to a combination of science and “cool factor” to mostly “cool factor” to now about transparency and “cool factor.” Most of these industry changes have happened in the last decade as the surge of new entrepreneurial interest has exploded it into a $16BN market. This has created intense competition because of the lack of proprietary advantages and low barriers of entry into the market. The recent differentiation tactics have been in the form of brand development.
With any changes, some companies adapt to the market and others are left in the dust. This adaptation has come in the form of a brand strategy of rebranding. We decided to point out what we think are five sports nutrition brands (listed in no order) that could benefit from the use of a rebrand next year. For the simplicity of this article and the subject matter, we focused on logos, colors, fonts, positioning, and packaging.
MuscleTech is a brand owned by Iovate Health (which was just acquired) and has a long standing foothold in the sports nutrition industry. They are one of the biggest and most successful brands over the last 20 years. Many of us older Millennials have probably bought one of their flagship products in high school at our local GNC. The brand management of MuscleTech has always been lackluster at best but they were one of the early adopters of influencer marketing. The problems we have with the branding and packaging is the extreme use of abstract shapes, metallic colors, and unimaginative logo. What confuses us the most is Iovate Health also has very strong brands like Epiq, Fuel:One, and True Grit so we know there are extremely talented creative resources in the company.
VPX Sports is another longstanding company in the sports nutrition industry being founded in 1993. They are the makers of extremely popular RTD products Redline and Bang. VPX Sports has went through a large number of rebrands in the last 20+ years as they have tried to gain market share in product categories outside of RTDs. The newest rebrand that happened in the last two years (to only the non-RTD products) is good in our opinion. The issues we have with the branding of VPX Sports is the inconsistent packaging, fonts, and colors that are used in the RTDs. If a consumer only knows VPX Sports for Redline or Bang products, they would be hard pressed to be able to walk into a local supplement shop and be able to pick out a VPX preworkout. This is a major problem and the main reason we believe the brand has not grown on the non-RTD side.
Muscle Pharm (FitMiss)
We were going to include Muscle Pharm into this list because of the newest shift in packaging (if you need to know, it is primarily around the loss of the high contrast packaging that drove merchandising sales) but we decided to let it sink in a bit more before we made a ruling on its effectiveness. Alternatively, FitMiss (the female brand of Muscle Pharm) has had mixed success in the industry. We know the agency that did this work and we absolutely love pretty much anything they create but we believe some adjustments could be made to this branding to really capture one of the fastest growing segments in sports nutrition; female-focused products. Our main issue lies in the darkness use that is dominant in the packaging. Our research has found that the female are more receptive to tints of colors (colors with white added) whereas men were more likely to be receptive to shades of colors as their favorites (colors with black added). We think a simple shift to a white dominated label would boost sales in 2017 and beyond.
NutriForce Sports was launched several years ago to take advantage of the functional fitness trend. The brand seemed to be shot out of a cannon and was signing influencers like they were going out of style, making noise in ever aspect of this new sport. Fast forward a few years, post parent company acquisition by The Vitamin Shoppe, they are at a crossroads. The “trend” of functional fitness has still not seen its peak but brands have leaped ahead of NutriForce Sports. We believe the main reason is that functional fitness consumers are even more focused on the “cool factor” with lifestyle brands like Progenex leading the pack. NutriForce Sports packaging, logo, and fonts are just not “cool” in our opinion. With the added resources from The Vitamin Shoppe, we expect to see some big changes in the near future (either rebranding or letting the brand exit the market).
We believe the reason Allmax should look to rebrand is focused around the lack of consistency in the packaging, fonts, and colors. The newest protein products, that are in mostly black and red, are very good (though they lack differentiation in the market) but they do not match up with many of the other product categories. We also like this new brand mark shown to the left and hope to see them using it more prominently in the future. Jokingly we should give these guys a pass since they are Canadian but they do a great deal of their revenue in the United States so they have to play the same game as everyone else to build brand equity. They also recently had some issues with quality control in the manufacturing side of the business so they will need to work extra hard to be transparent in their brand building so customers can gain trust back.