Usana secures fifth large scale sports sponsorship with USA Swimming deal

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - microgen
©Getty Images - microgen

Related tags Sports nutrition products Multivitamin

Multilevel marketing company Usana has concluded a partnership with USA Swimming to provide multivitamin products to the organization’s athletes. It’s part of a growing wave of sports sponsorships among network marketing companies.

Usana, based in Salt Lake City, sells a wide variety of dietary supplements and functional foods via its network of independent distributors. In recent years Usana has found its greatest success in China.  

Strong sales growth

In its recent year end earnings report, Usana recorded 14.5% sales growth in the fourth quarter with revenue of $310.5 million. For the year, the company recorded $1.1 billion in revenue, representing a 7% year over year growth.

In the fourth quarter, $139.1 million of revenue came from Greater China.  Possibly due to the continued hangover from that country’s regulatory crackdown on direct sales operations, growth in China was lowest for all of the country’s regions at 5.4%.  Sales grew in North Asia by more than 17% and in the Southeast Asia Pacific region by more than 34%.  Sales in the Americas/Europe region grew by 14.3%.

MLM sports partnerships

Partnerships with athletes, teams and sports bodies has a popular marketing strategy in the MLM sphere for years.  Usana’s competitor Herbalife sponsors the LA Galaxy professional soccer team, and has a relationship with Cristiano Ronaldo, considered one of the sport’s foremost players. Ronaldo currently plays for Italian team Juventus.  Amway Nutrilite reportedly has had a product partnership with the Chinese Olympic Committee​ for a number of years.

The USA Swimming partnership is the fifth such deal at that level that Usana has concluded.  The company now has marketing/product partnerships with two professional soccer teams, Vfl Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga and South Korean team Seongnam FC.  In addition, the company sponsors New Zealand rugby club Vodafone Warriors as well as Spartan U.S., the organizer of a series of obstacle course races.

Usana also advertises sponsorships of numerous individual athletes, including US wrestler J’den Cox and swimmer Jessica Long.  Cox won a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic games and has won two World Championship gold medals since then. Long, a swimmer whose lower legs were amputated when she was a toddler, has won a total of 23 medals at various Paralympic Games including 13 golds.

Potential pitfalls of sponsorships

Swimming sponsorships by network marketing companies have not always ended well.  In 2008 swimmer Jessica Hardy tested positive for low levels of clenbuterol​, a bronchodilator and stimulant.  Hardy blamed the positive test on a tainted Advocare supplement she used.  An arbitration panel agreed with Hardy that the supplement was contaminated​, something that Advocare disputed. The panel reduced Hardy’s suspension to one year. At the time Advocare was a network marketing company but was forced to exit that business model as part of the settlement of an FTC case that alleged the company was running an illegal pyramid scheme.

With a doping conviction on her record, Hardy’s fate for the 2012 Olympics hung in the balance but she ultimately was allowed to compete and won a bronze medal in a relay competition.

It was not immediately clear if the products Usana would supply to USA Swimming would be certified by one of the supplement certification bodies.

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