CHARLOTTE, NC (Katherine Peralta/The Charlotte Obs - In a new video ad just out on Monday, Luke Kuechly mixes a white protein powder into his pre-workout drink and takes a long swig before jumping into an intense series of box jumps, sprints, sled pushes and cleans.
The scene is set against a dramatic sunrise as the Carolina Panthers linebacker recites a mantra that's also partly splashed across his shirt: "Some days, you eat the bear, but some days the bear eats you," Kuechly says. "Stay hungry."
The ad is part of a three-year endorsement deal the linebacker has with Eat the Bear, a Charlotte-based startup that makes nutrition supplements. As part of the deal, Kuechly has taken a small equity position with the company, as well as a seat on its board of directors.
The company is banking on the fact that the partnership with Kuechly, considered one of the best linebackers in the league, will help drive interest in its product line, says Drew Gehringer, the company's chief operating officer. Plus, the powders have minimal added ingredients and therefore would pass an NFL drug test, Gehringer adds.
"With Luke coming on, we wanted him to tell the story to get the brand more national exposure," Gehringer says. "To have him behind our brand gives it a lot of validity."
In its first year of operation in 2011, Eat the Bear had $24,000 in sales. The team expects $3-4 million this year, and the goal for next year is $10 million, Gehringer says. A lofty goal, but one that the company anticipates will be possible through more recognition.
Kuechly's ad was filmed a few days before the start of the preseason earlier this summer at STAX, a Crossfit gym on South Tryon where former NFL star Randy Moss regularly co-hosts a free bootcamp. The ad will be distributed through various digital outlets like ESPN, but not necessarily on TV, Gehringer says.
Kuechly's since started using Eat the Bear's products himself, and Gehringer says the plan is to make a product specifically for him within a year.
Kuechly has also requested that the company get an NSF Certification for a line of protein powders he uses. It's an additional stamp of authenticity of sorts that should give confidence to other professional athletes, Gehringer says.
"If you put in the work, and give your body the clean nutrients it needs to recover and get stronger, then the good days will outweigh the bad ones. That's the essence of this video. We want to empower people to 'stay hungry,' and continue pushing towards their goals," Kuechly says.
Eat the Bear protein powders come in a variety of flavors, are non-GMO and contain five ingredients or fewer, Gehringer says. They're intended to help build strength and accelerate muscle recovery between workouts, though they're not just for elite athletes, Gehringer says.