Michigan-based vitamin supplement manufacturer 5-hour Energy inked a one year contract to co-title sponsor the UCI Continental team Kenda p/b Geargrinder, effectively renaming the outfit Kenda/5-hour Energy Pro Cycling p/b Geargrinder for the 2011 season. According to general manager Chad Thompson, the combined budget of all financial sponsors including 5-hour Energy has elevated the team budget to nearly four times more than it was last season.
“This is huge for us because we have always been industry sponsored and now we have a major corporate backer,” Thompson told Cyclingnews. “With everything that we have done, such as Kenda and Geargrinder increasing their sponsorship, a couple of private funders and 5-hour Energy, we have quadrupled our budget.”
Living Essentials are the producers of 5-hour Energy, a vitamin supplement sold in roughly two ounce bottles primarily in convenient stores and gas stations along with sales in Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Walgreen's, CVS, Rite-Aid, 7-11, GNC and the Vitamin Shoppe, among other locations. Sale reach roughly 400 million bottles annually with a core demographic that includes working men between the ages of 18 and 49.
President Scott Henderson, a cycling enthusiast, met the team’s Directeur Sportif Frankie Andreu at the Tour de France last year where they discuss the idea of sponsoring professional cycling along with the need to educate the public on the benefits of 5-hour Energy for healthy and active lifestyles.
“I was over at the Tour de France last summer with family and we advertise on Versus so I got backstage passes through our contacts and ran into Frankie Andreu,” Henderson said. “The interesting thing was, Frankie’s comment to me was, ‘I see 5-hour Energy on late-night television and in gas stations and it scares me.’
“Robbie Ventura was sitting beside us and he turned to me and said that he loved the stuff. It got me thinking that I have a product that I sell a million bottles a day of but here I have two guys that are almost identical and one loves it and one is afraid of it because he doesn’t know what’s in it and that is the classic problem with 5-hour Energy. That led to this opportunity of moving into the active lifestyle community and educating them that it is a safe product and good for them. What more interesting way to do than through bike racing.”
Tour of California and ProTeam ambitions
Henderson currently sponsors Nascar and expressed an interest in the possibility of supporting professional cycling at ProTeam level in the future. He ultimately decided to enter the sport on a domestic level with a team that could garner exposure in top-level American racing. Kenda p/b Geargrinders became that team when it received its first invitation to the Amgen Tour of California.
“Getting invited to the Amgen Tour of California definitely weighed into our decision to sponsor the team,” Henderson said. “For us, being a national brand, it has to be enough to make it interesting for us and them getting invited to the Amgen Tour of California really put it over the top. I look at this year’s sponsorship as a way of getting to know the team, getting to know the sport and seeing if it will work for us and for them.”
The team’s interest in contesting international stage races increased following the recent signing of Australia’s Ben Day. In addition the Amgen Tour of California, Kenda/5-hour Energy plans to send a team to the Tour de Beauce, Tour of Utah, Quiznos Pro Challenge and the Herald Sun Tour.
“We met their areas of interest by being in these events,” Thompson said. “Now they see that we have a solid shot at going to race in places where they want to market. After hiring Ben Day and scrambling to find the money for that and then getting invited to the Amgen Tour of California and invitations to other events we needed to find the funding that we didn’t quite have. When 5-hour Energy came on board we became much more comfortable.”
5-hour Energy ingredients include four vitamins B6, B12, Niacin and Folic Acid along with energy supplements and amino acids Citicoline, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Taurine, Malic Acid, Glucuronolactone and Caffine. The product contains no sugar and no herbal stimulants and is available in pomegranate, grape, berry, lemon and orange flavors.
“They did some extensive testing on it and all the ingredients were approved for USADA and WADA lists and our physician as well as their labs, everyone is in collaboration to make sure that everything is on the up and up and completely safe,” Thompson said. “But they’ve sponsored sports that get tested quite a bit. The riders are using it and they love it.”
One of the primary deterrents for professional athletes using any dietary supplement is the possibility of cross-contamination with other substances that are banned by the US Anti-doping Agency (USADA) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). According to Henderson, there is no possibility of cross contamination with 5-hour Energy products.
“We do all our own manufacturing with two plants in Wabash, Indiana and each of them have six dedicated lines and the only product we make is 5-hour Energy. There is no chance of that [cross contamination] because everything we make is 5-hour Energy and there are no other products made in our plant. The most important thing we have is our brand and the quality behind it.”