Skip to main content
Original Issue

It Tastes Like What?

Weird flavors help Jones bust the Coke-Pepsi sports monopoly

HE'S KNOWN as asavvy marketer, but even Jones Soda founder and CEO Peter van Stolk has a hardtime talking up one of his products. "It's disgusting," he says ofPerspiration soda, a recent addition to the Jones lineup. "It tastes likesweat."

Perspiration won'twin taste tests, but it's proof that the tiny, Seattle-based Jones is suddenlya player in the competitive soft-drink and sports-sponsorship fields. The saltybrew is one of five novelty flavors—the others are Dirt, Natural Field Turf,Sports Cream and Sweet Victory—in a line of Seattle Seahawks--themed Jonessodas, part of the sponsorship deal the company and team struck last May. Thefive-year agreement gives Jones nonalcoholic beverage rights at Qwest Field,the only NFL stadium where soda products other than Coke or Pepsi are sold.(Coke, which had been the Seahawks' soda for nearly 30 years, and Pepsi had$56.7 billion in combined revenues last year. Jones took in $39 million.) Lastmonth Van Stolk broke into the NBA market: Jones will become the New JerseyNets' provider when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2009.

Terms of bothdeals were undisclosed, but Nets CEO Brett Yormark says the Jones sponsorshipis "more lucrative" than what more established brands were offering."We were talking to Coke and Pepsi," he says, "but we felt it wasimportant to be the centerpiece of any marketing portfolio we were partof"—meaning the Nets can enjoy Jones's undivided NBA promotional attention.Indeed, Van Stolk has stressed tailored marketing since he branched into thesoda business in 1996. A former ski instructor who ran a fruit stand and juicedistributorship in hisnative Edmonton, Van Stolk started producing customizedlabels for his microbrewed sodas: customers mailed in pictures, and the companydesigned vanity bottles. Says Van Stolk, "I wanted to start a brand thathad some fun in what had always been a conservative arena."

In addition to thefootball flavors, Jones sells Seahawks labels featuring QB Matt Hasselbeck andreceiver Deion Branch and will do the same for the Nets. The approach has beena hit. Van Stolk says soda sales at Qwest are up more than 30% this year;Yormark was so impressed that he sought out Van Stolk and asked the company tosponsor the Nets. Does that mean he's tried Perspiration? "I have not,"Yormark says. "I've been sticking with black cherry."

Funny Money

WHEN THEY were negotiating the current CBA with theplayers' union in 2005, NHL owners pushed through a bylaw that players withentry-level NHL contracts would be paid in that team's "nativecurrency." That was a euphemism for the Canadian dollar, which at the timewas worth around 80 cents in U.S. currency. The idea was to save a littlescratch, but a funny thing happened in the interim: The Canadian dollar spiked,hitting a high of $1.10 U.S. on Nov. 7 and closing last week at $1.00. Todayabout 50 Canadian-born American Hockey League players who live in the U.S. areseeing a sweet bump in their $35,000 to $65,000 annual salaries. For Binghamton(N.Y.) Senators goalie Jeff Glass (above) the difference, at the Canadiandollar's peak, amounted to more than $500 a month, enough for his rent.Springfield (Mass.) Falcons forward Liam Reddox felt good enough about hisuptick to buy a $27,800 truck before being called up to Edmonton on Nov. 15.Says his teammate defenseman Theo Peckham, who makes $52,500 Canadian,"Everything is so much cheaper in the U.S.!"

Walking Stick

IT'S HOCKEY'S VERSION of the Louisville Slugger—theSher-Wood stick, which the Sherwood-Drolet company has made of birch and aspenat its Sherbrooke, Que., factory since 1949. But no more. Next month thecompany will begin outsourcing production of its wooden sticks (it sells amillion each year) to China and Estonia. "The wood sticks will still be ourtop sellers for many more years," says company president Denis Drolet."In China they make them for cheaper." Sherwood will turn its factoryover to more profitable composite sticks. (They sell for around $180; woodcosts $40.) Only 5% of NHL players still use wood sticks, and composites aregaining popularity among youth players, but some pros don't like theoutsourcing. Senators center Jason Spezza convinced Sherwood to keep making hiswoods in Quebec. "If I was going to continue using their sticks, I wantedto make sure they were still made in the same place," he told the OttawaCitizen.



POP CULTURE Branch and kicker Josh Brown helped introduce Jones soda to Seahawks fans last June.