Luke Kuechly is notorious for keeping a low profile off the field. But one of his sponsors – Charlotte-based nutrition supplement maker Eat the Bear – has launched a funding round that would make it possible for fans to become business partners with the Carolina Panthers linebacker.
Last summer, Kuechly signed a three-year endorsement with Eat the Bear, or ETB for short, giving him a equity position with the company and a seat on its board. Last month, the company launched a Series A funding round with the goal of raising $2 million private placement for accredited investors. Consumers can purchase equity in the company, thus technically becoming partners with Kuechly.
The company, started in 2011, is hoping its partnership with one of the best defensive players in the NFL will pique the interest of prospective investors, especially nutrition-minded athletes. ETB describes its products as “clean,” meaning they have minimal ingredients and pass NFL drug tests.
“They provide a good, clean, safe supplement that you don’t have to worry about what’s going into your body,” said Kuechly, who describes himself as a “chocolate guy” who uses ETB proteins regularly. “Football is a finite career, and you’ve gotta have something after that.”
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Kuechly, who appeared in a video ad for ETB last fall at STAX, the Crossfit gym on South Tryon, suffered a concussion during the Oct. 16 game against the New Orleans Saints, an injury that kept him out for the remainder of the season.
Kuechly, one of Charlotte’s most popular pro athletes, said partnering with a local brand has been good for its exposure here.
“It helps to be in the market that you know, and people know you and the brand. If you partner with a group on the West Coast, I don’t think you’d have this much reach, this much touch with the company, but also with the people you’re trying to get it out to,” Kuechly said.
Jude Colangelo, Eat the Bear president and founder, says the capital raised from the funding round will go toward increasing inventory, and funding research and development, marketing, talent acquisition, investment in its e-commerce efforts and community outreach.
ETB sells its products in about 200 Harris Teeter stores, and recently won a placement deal in 3,000 CVS stores, Colangelo said. ETB’s proteins, caseins and other supplements can also be found around Charlotte at Crossfit gyms and other athletic facilities, as well as supplement stores like Nutrishop.
Colangelo said demand has been high for ETB’s ready-to-eat and ready-to-drink products. He said brand is evolving into a “nutrition lifestyle brand” set not just on delivering nutritional supplments.
“Ultimately we want investors to understand that growth and recognize the power that the brand has not just in this particular category where we started, but also most if not all the aisles in Harris Teeter,” Colangelo said.
Kuechly’s list of endorsements also includes Nike and CPI Security. While many athletes use their social media platform to promote their endorsements, Kuechly’s lone ETB tweet was on Sept. 20 last year, a day after his video ad came out. And probably best not to expect a lot more: “I keep to myself on social media,” Kuechly said.