By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
May 5, 2011: LeBron James is currently taking on Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce of the Boston Celtics in the NBA playoffs.
He now plans to take on Gatorade, PowerAde and products that offer five hours or more of energy in one container.
The Miami Heat star has formed a company, PureBrands, with businessmen Warren Struhl, Jesse Itzler and Maverick Carter, who is the CEO of James' LRMR Marketing company, to produce and market products.
The first to hit the market will be Sheets, a paper-thin strip that dissolves on your tongue and provides "the new way to do energy."
According to PureBrands, "Sheets paper-thin dissolvable strips are placed on your tongue, begin to dissolve instantly and are easily swallowed and digested delivering hours of energy.
The company said it would launch Sheets with a $10 million marketing campaign with the irreverent tag: Take a Sheet. The campaign will feature James, rapper Pitbull, Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, Danilo Gallinari of the Denver Nuggets, NFL running back Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, and sports broadcaster Melanie Collins.
The effort will include TV, print, Internet such as Facebook and Twitter and what was called "massive" sampling across the country.
"Pitbull and his team will spearhead the brand's entire Hispanic marketing efforts creating innovative advertising, marketing and promotional initiatives to reach Latino consumers worldwide," according to PureBrands.
The product initially will come in two flavors — Cinnamon Rush and Berry Blast — with more flavors to come, according to the company.
“Taking Sheets is part of my pre-game and halftime ritual,” James said in a statement. “I’ve tried tons of other products in the past and none compare. Sheets are a smart and convenient way to get energy.”
According to PureBrand, "Sheets taste great, won't spill or melt, have no calories, no carbohydrates, no sugar, and require no water. One serving of Sheets contains caffeine comparable to a cup of the leading premium coffee as well as vitamins B and E."
Each Sheets is individually wrapped in a thin and convenient pouch "giving consumers the option to carry Sheets in their wallet or pocket. Try doing that with an energy drink or a cup of coffee!" offers PureBrands.
Sheets are currently being sold at a dedicated Web site and will also be available at retail nationwide, including GNC and convenience stores, beginning in June. MSRP for a ten-pack of Sheets is $5.95; a four-pact will be $2.95.
A 30-second spot shows James sitting in a gym and using the product as he prepares to enter a game. It is shot in black & white except for the bright red Sheets strip that James puts on his tongue. (See the spot here.)
Text offers: "The new way to do energy. How do you do energy? Sheets energy strips." The spot directs viewers to a dedicated Facebook page.
A separate 20-second spot asks, "How does Amar'e Stoudemire do energy?" As the Knicks' all-star puts a Sheets strip on his tongue, he winks as text answers: "Just like that." Stoudemire, who like James also endorses Nike, is wearing a Nike Air T-shirt. Seemingly not by coincidence, the closing shot of the Sheets spot bears a close resemblance to closing shots from Nike's "Just do it" ads. (See the spot here.)
A third spot, featuring Gallinari and Collins takes the tagline to its humorous extent – aided by Gallinari's Italian accent. The NBA forward is seen being interviewed by Collins in a locker room after a game. But viewers will soon realize that the scene is not real, but rather surreal.
"You were a little bit sluggish in the first half, but you came out in the second and dropped 30, [points]" Collins says to Gallinari as the camera rolls. "What was the difference?"
With a straight face, Gallinari replies, "Well, to be perfectly honest, I came in the locker room to take a Sheet."
"What?" replies the dumbfounded Collins.
"I normally take a Sheet four, five times a day. Everywhere," Gallinari continues. "I can do it right here in the locker room. With my friends in the living room while playing cards. Anywhere. I'm actually going to take a Sheet right now," he says to the now-cringing reporter. "Do you want to watch?!" (See the spot here.)
"The uniquely powerful combination of the Sheet management team and its star-studded marketing program really made us take notice of the Sheets brand."
Retailers already see big business for the James-driven product.
"The uniquely powerful combination of the Sheet management team and its star-studded marketing program really made us take notice of the Sheets brand," Ted Deitrick, vp-merchandising at GNC, said in a statement."Sheets are a perfect fit for our core customer – athletes and people with an active and healthy lifestyle."