Jan 29, 2015Partnering on Products
If you’ve ever thought about creating your own product, promoting one, or doing research for a company, this article is a must-read.
Imagine: Creating a recovery beverage specifically for your school’s athletes. Appearing in an advertisement in a national magazine. Teaming with a sporting goods manufacturer to research a new product. These scenarios are not part of the typical day for most athletic trainers and strength coaches, but they were a reality for three of them.
In this article, we hear from a college strength coach, high school athletic trainer, and director of a college athletic training education program about how they each got involved in unique partnerships. In all three cases, their experiences started by branching out of their professional comfort zones.
CREATING RED WHEY
By John Dettmann
John Dettmann is in his 24th year as Director of Strength and Conditioning at the University of Wisconsin. During his time as Head Football Strength Coach, the team played in 14 bowl games and won three Big Ten and Rose Bowl championships. He can be reached at: [email protected].
I have long believed in the anti-inflammatory benefits of tart cherry juice. I also know the value of whey protein in athletes’ recovery. So why not put these two things together? This was the initial thought behind Red Whey, a recovery drink that I helped produce for our University of Wisconsin athletes.
Combine this with the fact that I had one of the world’s best dairy research institutions, the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research (CDR), less than two blocks from our athletic facilities, and the idea looked even better. Our Athletic Director, Barry Alvarez, has always encouraged members of the athletic department to engage campus resources and build bridges with our academic colleagues, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so.
I began by contacting CDR Dairy Ingredient Applications Coordinator K.J. Burrington. I told her of my goal to create a recovery drink that would be delicious, while meeting NCAA supplement guidelines and nutritional requirements. I had worked with K.J. and the CDR on other projects in the past, and our previous relationship helped this project get started quickly.
Next, I contacted Mike Johnson, the President of Country Ovens in Forestville, Wis., which sits in a well-known cherry growing region in the northeast corner of the state. I told him about my idea, and he readily agreed to provide the cherry juice for the drink and oversee sales and distribution.
From there, I connected the CDR and Country Ovens and served as a taster to test various batch runs the CDR produced. Those who have tried whey proteins know that achieving a pleasing flavor is challenging, and this process took several attempts.
We were also committed to making sure the product was all natural, made with 100-percent tart cherry juice and as few ingredients as possible. Often times juices are diluted with apple juice or water and we did not want to compromise the nutritional benefits or the anti-inflammatory properties of our product by taking these cost-cutting measures. In the end, we formulated a simple drink that meets NCAA standards and contains a unique balance of amino acids that aid in muscle recovery.
The CDR normally charges companies a significant fee for this type of work, but because of our relationship and the fact that the drink was being made specifically for Wisconsin athletes, the fee was waived during the testing phase. Country Ovens provided cherry juice free of charge during the development phase because they would be awarded distribution rights and we would purchase the final product directly from them. Red Whey is now available at retail stores in our areas so that Badgers fans can buy it as well.
Our athletes love Red Whey and drink it frequently. As with anything else new, we had to educate the athletes about the benefits, but our athletes are intelligent and understand our intent. They also know that as an athletic department, we always have their best interests in mind.
Although working on this project is a diversion from the typical duties of a strength and conditioning coach, it aligns with the goals we have established at Wisconsin. We want to put our athletes in the best possible position to be successful both on and off the field. In this ever-changing landscape and constantly evolving field, we should always look for ways to do what is in the best interest of our athletes. I feel the development of this product accomplishes just that.
For more information about Red Whey, go to: www.countryovens.com.
By Daniel McInerney
Daniel McInerney is a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected].
In the summer of 2010, Thomas Kaminski, PhD, ATC, FACSM, Professor and Director of Athletic Training Education at the University of Delaware, was invited to an Under Armour facility in Maryland where he and several other specialists worked with shoe designers and a research and development team to create a new cleated shoe. The product, dubbed the Brawler, was designed for football players looking for ankle stability who didn’t want to use spat taping.
Spat taping is common among football players, but large amounts of tape are required, and it can be difficult to remove the tape if a player sustains a lower leg injury. Under Armour, with the help of Kaminski and several others, set out to design a cleat that would eliminate the need for extra ankle support via taping.
Kaminski, who is an expert in ankle injury prevention and treatment, had input in the front-end development of the cleat but knew that he could offer Under Armour more. After giving the designers several suggestions about how to design the cleat so that it would provide proper support for the ankle, he approached Under Armour’s research and development team and offered to test the Brawler at Delaware’s Human Performance Laboratory.
A few months later, Under Armour sent a team of researchers to look at Delaware’s testing facilities and determine if the research they were interested in could be conducted there. Kaminski says that the Human Performance Lab is one of the key reasons the university was able to establish the research partnership with Under Armour. A full biomechanics laboratory, force plate technology, motion-capture equipment, and several other methods would be employed to test the effectiveness of the cleat. The Lab’s proximity to the athletic fields would allow Kaminski and his team to conduct a wide range of tests, both in the lab and on the field in quick succession.
“The other important thing was that we had access to student-athletes,” Kaminski says. “Under Armour is a sponsor of our football team, so those athletes were already familiar and comfortable with the company. I think the athletes felt it would be fun to participate. They would get to test a new product before it hit the market, and there is some intrigue and novelty associated with that.”
With the go-ahead from Under Armour, Kaminski assembled a research team that included both graduate and undergraduate athletic training students. The researchers then recruited 26 athletes from the football, men’s lacrosse, and men’s rugby teams. Each athlete’s proprioception, balance, stability, laxity in the ankle, speed, strength, and agility were examined in a variety of tests–both when wearing the Brawler and when wearing Under Armour’s traditional cleat.
After compiling the data, Kaminski and his team found that the Brawler provided increased balance and more comfort. The cleat also effectively replicated the benefits of spat taping by decreasing laxity in the ankle, and was found to be especially effective for football linemen.
Kaminski says research partnerships like this one are extremely valuable for athletic training students because they are able to gain experience working in the field. The hands-on participation allowed students to familiarize themselves with testing equipment, practice data collection, and have a chance to work directly with athletes in a testing scenario.
In addition, company-funded partnerships like this one allow the university to participate in research studies without the need to secure grants. On a campus-wide level, the partnership draws attention to the university by showing other companies that Delaware is capable of conducting extensive research in the Human Performance Lab and strengthens the university’s goal of promoting a connection between education and industry.
Under Armour benefited by receiving valuable information about its product from Kaminski and his team. The company ended up using some of the study data when marketing the Brawler cleat.
After Kaminski submitted his formal report to Under Armour, the company asked him to do more research on several other Under Armour cleats. This spring, Kaminski will be researching and comparing three different cleat models designed specifically for lacrosse and soccer players. This continued partnership will allow for the research and development of several new products and present more Delaware students with the opportunity to participate.
POISED TO PROMOTE
By Phil Hossler
Phil Hossler, MS, ATC, is Head Athletic Trainer at East Brunswick (N.J.) High School. He was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame in 1999 and is a former President of the Eastern Athletic Trainers’ Association. He can be reached at: [email protected].
The large text in the full-page ad reads, “In Phil Hossler’s circle, athletes refuel with chocolate milk.” And there’s me in my East Brunswick (N.J.) High School Athletic Training jacket–a “got chocolate milk?” campaign representative. I had the honor of appearing in this ad in seven nationally distributed magazines last year as part of the Milk Processor Education Program’s (MilkPEP) REFUEL “got chocolate milk?” campaign.
Not only was it a wonderful experience to be involved in the campaign, it gave me the opportunity to educate others about a product I believe in while also promoting the profession of athletic training. The ad showed that athletic trainers can play a role in athletes’ nutrition. While we aren’t dietitians, we see athletes before, during, and after practices and games and can help them make smart fueling decisions. I believe that lots of other similar opportunities are out there for other athletic trainers, too, but it took time, effort, and a little bit of luck for me to get the chance to be involved.
So how did it all happen? About four years ago I began speaking to our teams about the value of low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery beverage in short PowerPoint presentations during preseason team meetings. I had received some research from the MilkPEP group, as well as convenient and useful graphics about the value of low-fat chocolate milk.
My preseason PowerPoint presentations touch on a variety of subjects, including stretching, insurance, heat illness, and heat versus ice applications. I encourage my athletes to eat something for breakfast each day, so the idea of starting the day right and ending practice with proper nutrition fell into place as a good presentation topic.
Two years later, I started stocking chocolate milk in the athletic training room. The school cafeteria allowed me to tack my order onto its weekly shipment, and I sold the cartons to athletes as an after-school fundraising program with proceeds benefiting our athletic booster club. Athletes became accustomed to stopping by the athletic training room after practices and games to enjoy a carton of chocolate milk. Our winter sport athletes especially liked the new routine. Our wrestlers are big believers in the nutritional value and convenience.
Later that year, I approached MilkPEP with a brief story about how I was educating our athletes on the benefits of chocolate milk and a photo of me giving the wrestling team a presentation on the topic. In 2011, I was featured in MilkPEP’s “got milk? spotlight on” Web segment. Later that year, I was selected as one of MilkPEP’s national personalities for 2012.
A train trip to Baltimore and a professional photo shoot later, the ad was finished and ran in the magazines. Since then, I have been interviewed about the campaign several times, and STACK.com came to campus to shoot two video segments about our “got milk? REFUEL with chocolate milk” program. The videos were posted on MilkPEP’s social media channels and on the NFHS Web site, and appeared in two American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance newsletters late last year.
Milk is a staple in our country. I had no hesitation encouraging (though never requiring) our athletes to drink low-fat chocolate milk. They can buy it from our athletic training room stock or have their parents put some in the refrigerator at home. Who is going to argue with teenagers drinking more milk?
All in all, this has been an exciting experience. While the photo shoot was fun and I got to spend a little bit of time as a “celebrity” around here at East Brunswick, I think one of the most important things to come out of the attention was the publicity for our profession. The public is becoming increasingly aware of how valuable athletic trainers can be in so many avenues when it comes to athletic healthcare, including nutrition. To view the videos about East Brunswick’s REFUEL program, go to: http://bit.ly/MilkVideo1 and http://bit.ly/MilkVideo2
Sidebar: SPOTTING AN OPPORTUNITY
Phil Hossler, MS, ATC, Head Athletic Trainer at East Brunswick (N.J.) High School, didn’t have his “got chocolate milk?” campaign opportunity handed to him. He had to do some work for it. He offers the following tips for others seeking out a similar role:
– Be active, be involved, and keep your professional eyes and ears open so you are aware of the “landscape” around you.
– Seek opportunities–don’t wait for them to seek you.
– Research the product and the company. Make sure the product has value and the company has credibility. Any product you involve yourself in should be one you firmly believe in.
– Look at your involvement from the company’s perspective as well: What can you offer them?
– Above all, remember who you are and who you are not. You cannot speak for your colleagues or any association that you belong to.