In case you haven’t noticed lately, which would be hard to do, Celsius has skyrocketed in popularity in the energy drink space.
While Red Bull and Monster still drive about 70% of volume in the category, Celsius Holdings, which was founded in April 2004, received a massive boost thanks to a $550 million investment from PepsiCo in August 2022.
Not only has the investment helped the energy drink maker further its distribution in big-box retailers and independent stores resulting in nearly 10% of market share, but it’s also energized the company’s recent push into sports.
“It’s been really great to see the brand branching out,” Celsius CEO John Fieldly said. “It goes back to the core DNA of Celsius, which provides that essential energy for life to help you achieve your goals, and it aligns perfectly with today’s health-minded consumer in the sports world.
“It’s a big vertical for us and we’re going to continue to build upon that. We made some major penetration into new areas this year and we look forward to expanding that into 2024 and beyond.”
Known primarily in the fitness community as the self-proclaimed “better for you” energy drink, Celsius, which has seen its valuation grow from $280 million when Fieldly was named CEO in April 2018 to $13.4 billion today according to GQ, is now visible throughout a seemingly endless list of sports properties.
The brand has partnerships across Formula 1, Major League Soccer, Professional Fighters League, P1 Offshore boat racing, pickleball and downhill skiing. Celsius is the energy drink of choice for Jake Paul, Dustin Poirier and Shaun White, while serving as a sponsor of Inter Miami FC and Scuderia Ferrari. The Florida-based Celsius has also had activations with the Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat and Florida Panthers.
“We’re starting to get a little bit of our feet wet in professional sports,” Fieldly said. “I think there’s more opportunities to build upon that. We’re getting a lot of interest from a lot of athletes reaching out.”
The brand isn’t just expanding into pro sports. In August, Celsius announced a partnership with intercollegiate athletics marketing company Learfield to deepen its footprint on college campuses through college football and men’s and women’s basketball which includes four new schools: University of Oregon, University of Colorado Boulder, United States Air Force Academy and University of Washington.
Celsius boasts an NIL roster highlighted by Bo Nix (Oregon), Blake Corum (Michigan) and Michael Penix Jr. (Washington) as it looks to further expand into NCAA men’s and women’s basketball.
With a target demo of 18-24, Fieldly said Celsius is looking at various sports verticals that align with the brand’s overall strategy, which has been buoyed by increased distribution through the PepsiCo investment.
Unsurprisingly, soccer checks a lot of those boxes. Before signing its first league-wide deal with MLS in August, Celsius locked down a multi-year partnership with Inter Miami FC in February, months before the arrival of eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. It’s since added team deals with Chicago Fire FC and New York City FC.
“We really like the MLS partnership because the World Cup is coming to the U.S. so there’s going to be a lot of build up leading up to that over the next two years and we really want to be involved in that and that journey,” Fieldly said. “We thought this league sponsorship with MLS provides that access that we otherwise wouldn’t have with authenticity with the World Cup coming to North America.”
With a market dominated by Red Bull and Monster, established brands like Rockstar, upstart Prime as the sports and energy drink of choice for teens, ZOA, GOAT Fuel and Wooooo backed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jerry Rice and Ric Flair, respectively, coupled with Gatorade and BodyArmor introducing caffeinated products, the energy drink market couldn’t be more competitive.
But Fieldly believes Celsius’ unique blend of essential energy and key vitamins, the PepsiCo investment and the brand’s growing presence in sports will be the recipe for success.
“When you look at the competitiveness of the energy drink category, it’s so extremely competitive and it’s really difficult to be able to gain scale,” he said. “There hasn’t been a brand in the last decade to reach a 10% share in the energy drink category except for Celsius, which just achieved that.
“Authenticity is really critical that our partners and fans enjoy the product as much as we do.”