The deal, which is set to run for several years, will give GNC a retail exclusive on Ghost’s Gamer product, which is billed as a ‘natural energy and focus product,’ that was specifically formulated for Esports participants.
Functional ingredient base
The product is anchored by Nutrition 21’s NooLVL, a patented bonded arginine silicate ingredient which as been specifically studied a gaming setting. Based on the quality of the research and its innovative approach directly to gamers the company won NutraIngredients-USA’s Sports Nutrition Ingredient of the Year award in 2020.
Also featured in the formulation is Kyowa Hakko’s Cognizin brand of citicoline. Kyowa Hakko has been researching the ingredient as a nootropic for more than a decade and in recent years identified Esports as a big new opportunity. The company first advertised the ingredient directly to that market segment via a booth at SXSW Gaming event in Austin, TX in early 2019.
Gaming, Esports popularity exploding
Video gaming has been growing in popularity for years and the COVID-19 lockdowns seem to have turned that trend into a hockey stick graph. According to mobile communications firm Verizon, peak video gaming hours in the March 10-17 time frame in 2020 surged 75% over the same period a year before. Another report in May 2020 pegged the surge at 89% year over year.
And Esports, in which fans watch star gamers go head to head, is growing strongly, too. A Business Insider report said viewership is predicted to grow at 9% a year in the 2019 to 2023 time frame, with the global fan base pegged to reach 646 million by 2023.
That would put Esports firmly on the global sports marketing map. One sports site pegs soccer and cricket as the world’s most popular spectator sports as measured by fan bases, with the NBA coming in third. Each has more than 2 billion fans according to that rating system. Esports could top 1 billion fans by the end of the decade even if its CAGR declined post pandemic to less than 7%. And unlike other popular global spectator sports, Esports has a more participatory aspect in which fans could legitimately dream of approaching the performance of their favorite stars. That would make them a more fertile ground for the sale of nutrition support products than would the average cricket fan, for example.
Flavors are key
In addition to the functional ingredients, Ghost CEO Daniel Lourenco said a key differentiator for the Gamer line, which is packaged as powder tubs and stick packs for mixing into a beverage, is the flavor choices. Ghost has concluded licensing deals for some headline flavors such as Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish. And the company says it recently partnered with Sonic Drive-In on its Cherry Limeade and Ocean Water flavors.
“There is huge crossover between sports nutrition and gaming,” Lourenco said. “As the level of play in esports continues to increase, gamers of all levels are going to look for ways to optimize their performance.”
Deal helps GNC enter new era
As GNC continues its restructuring following its bankruptcy sale to Chinese firm Harbin, Josh Burris, who was named GNC’s CEO in January, said Ghost Gamer is part of GNC’s new look.
“GNC is ready to make a move in the gaming industry through an exclusive partnership with Ghost Gamer,” Burris said. “With their incredible products and flavor collabs and our unrivaled ability to reach customers on a massive scale, we couldn’t be more amped to launch into esports together.”
To help promote the launch, the companies announced a sweepstakes featuring gaming consoles as prizes.