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It Tastes Like What?
Caitlin Moscatello
December 10, 2007
Weird flavors help Jones bust the Coke-Pepsi sports monopoly
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December 10, 2007

It Tastes Like What?

Weird flavors help Jones bust the Coke-Pepsi sports monopoly

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HE'S KNOWN as a savvy marketer, but even Jones Soda founder and CEO Peter van Stolk has a hard time talking up one of his products. "It's disgusting," he says of Perspiration soda, a recent addition to the Jones lineup. "It tastes like sweat."

Perspiration won't win taste tests, but it's proof that the tiny, Seattle-based Jones is suddenly a player in the competitive soft-drink and sports-sponsorship fields. The salty brew 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 Jones sodas, part of the sponsorship deal the company and team struck last May. The five-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.) Last month Van Stolk broke into the NBA market: Jones will become the New Jersey Nets' provider when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2009.

Terms of both deals were undisclosed, but Nets CEO Brett Yormark says the Jones sponsorship is "more lucrative" than what more established brands were offering. "We were talking to Coke and Pepsi," he says, "but we felt it was important to be the centerpiece of any marketing portfolio we were part of"—meaning the Nets can enjoy Jones's undivided NBA promotional attention. Indeed, Van Stolk has stressed tailored marketing since he branched into the soda business in 1996. A former ski instructor who ran a fruit stand and juice distributorship in hisnative Edmonton, Van Stolk started producing customized labels for his microbrewed sodas: customers mailed in pictures, and the company designed vanity bottles. Says Van Stolk, "I wanted to start a brand that had some fun in what had always been a conservative arena."

In addition to the football flavors, Jones sells Seahawks labels featuring QB Matt Hasselbeck and receiver Deion Branch and will do the same for the Nets. The approach has been a 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 to sponsor the Nets. Does that mean he's tried Perspiration? "I have not," Yormark says. "I've been sticking with black cherry."

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