“IF YOU CAN BELIEVE IT, THE MIND CAN ACHIEVE IT.”
How NFL star Luke Kuechly is growing his business off the field
- Updated: July 25, 2016
NFL teams return to training camp this week to focus on preparing for the 2016 football season, and one of the league’s biggest stars wrapped up a new equity-based endorsement deal just in time.
Luke Kuechly, linebacker for the Carolina Panthers, has signed a contract with nutrition brand Eat The Bear. The deal gives Kuechly (pronounced KEEK-lee) an ownership piece in the Charlotte, NC-based maker of protein powder and supplements. The company did not share the value of the contract, but it may be a bigger score for five-year-old Eat The Bear (or ETB Fit), in terms of exposure, than for Kuechly.
Kuechly adds ETB Fit to an endorsement stable that includes Nike, Pepsi, and CPI Security.
Eat the Bear is a reference to the phrase, “Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you,” which was made popular by the movie The Big Lebowski. The products sell on ETB’s web site and online at Target and Costco.
Its CEO, Jude Colangelo, says Kuechly is “certainly the highest-profile” brand endorser ETB Fit has had, though it has sponsored athletes in more niche sports. “There’s a lot of congruence between ETB and our ethos and Luke. We’re a nutrition-based lifestyle business with the mission to provide clean and lean alternatives to consumers. And Luke, his genuineness, his commitment to his craft, his dedication, really fits our mantra of eating the bear, and overcoming obstacles.” ETB Fit considered a number of different athletes, but Colangelo says, “Luke kept emerging as the obvious choice.”
In a profile earlier this year, Sports Illustrated called Kuechly “the gentleman linebacker.” The description fits. He has a reputation for politeness and class, and has achieved accolade after accolade on the field. He was NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. In 2014, he received the Butkus Award, which is given out by the nonprofit Butkus Foundation to a player who lives the “I Play Clean” mantra.
Being in the NFL, Kuechly tells Yahoo Finance, is “all about being clean. You’re putting stuff in your body to help you recover and stay at peak-performance… I try to stay clean on the field and off the field. When you’re looking into these endorsement deals, you have to trust the company and what they stand for. So this wasn’t just going to be a one-time thing.”
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