Aaron Donald Investing in People, Not Ideas


Rams star Aaron Donald - who was voted the No. 1 player of 2019 by his peers - has made his first investment in a business (he has some real estate holdings), a fast-growing sports nutrition company called Ready Nutrition (Ready Water is their top product). The former Pitt Panther obviously has an understanding for the importance of hydration and the need to replenish muscles after a grueling workout, but it wasn’t the increased focus on personalized nutrition - across every sport, at every level - that drove Donald to take an equity interest in the startup; the 5th year all-pro decided to bet on the entrepreneur behind the Ready brand - former Pitt basketball captain (and NBA player) Pat Cavanaugh. Donald said, “the product is great, but [as an investor] I just know [this business] is going to work because the guy pushing it has the mindset that he’s not going to fail; he’s always trying to outwork [the competition] and that’s my mindset when I’m training to get ready for football.

Howie Long-Short: Donald may be putting his money behind a person (or people) and not an idea - a common ‘strategy’ amongst private investors - but there is no doubt that an investment in a successful sports performance beverage company has the potential to return tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. If you recall, BodyArmor sold to a minority stake (15%) to Coca-Cola in 2018 at a $2 billion valuation. Early investor Kobe Bryant’s holdings in the company are now said to be worth +/- $200 million.

Donald’s introduction to Ready Nutrition came at a camp he held, at his high school (Penn Hills HS), in Penn Hills, PA. Cavanaugh - headquartered just 20 miles down i-76 - was on site offering samples of Ready Water to participants, when the product caught the all-pro’s attention. “The kids were all drinking it. I got the opportunity to taste it and thought [the water] was good, so I talked to my agent about getting in contact with Pat. Once I had the chance to hear his story and his passion for the business, along with him being a Pittsburgh [alum] and Ready being a Pittsburgh brand, it was a no-brainer [to invest].”

From a product standpoint, Ready Water is exactly what Donald desires. The research indicates that as much as 25% of athletic performance is predicated on nutrition, so he says “having no sugars is big for me (there are no sugar-alcohols in the product, either). The 15 grams of protein also helps me to keep weight on during the season.” The company’s all natural (or organic) formula and protein mix differentiates it from drinks made by competitors like Body Armor or Gatorade. Cavanaugh notes that “ensuring the Ready products taste great is a core tenet [of the business] because no matter how good the nutritional label says a product is for someone, if it doesn’t taste good the consumer won’t use it or buy it again.

Fan Marino: NBA teams are regularly holding star players out of games in the interest of “load management” (see: ensuring guys are fresh/healthy for the playoffs), but Donald doesn’t believe NFL clubs should employ the same strategy. “We only play 16 games. If a team is [locked] in position to be the number one seed going in to the playoffs then there is no need to play [the stars], but if not guys need to be out there. Byes aside, seeding means more in the NFL Playoffs than it does in NBA Playoffs.

Speaking of the NBA, unlike in the Warriors locker room where investment talk dominates the conversation, Donald says there is little to no business or finance chatter permeating through NFL facilities. “Most guys keep their off the field business to themselves, unless they’re trying to get people to invest into [a venture] with them. 

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Matt Solorio
Matt Solorio


Sports Business