Once upon a time, Ty Ballou nearly choked on Flutie Flakes. Now he’s on the Josh Allen coffee sea.
In the meantime, his company, PLB Sports and Entertainment, has sold more than 25 million units of Jock brand food, [Jaromir] Jagr creamy peanut butter [Ed] McCaffery Rocky Mountain Mustard To [Michael] Peka’s impeccable pickles.
This year, the PLB adds nutrition and spice to the viewing feast of the NFL playoffs. Aside from Allen’s medium-roast coffee, known as JA’s 17 Blend, PLB’s current menu includes Ja’Marr Chase Uno Chips, Trevon Diggs Pick & Dip BBQ Sauce, and Stefon Diggs’ Diggs 14 Hot Sauce with Lemon Pepper Seasoning. included.
For more than 26 years, Crunch and Seasoning Parade has propelled privately held PLB to annual sales “in the seven figures, hoping to be in the eight figures” and donating $35 million to charity. , like many late-night pantry raids, the company’s origins stemmed from desperation and hunger.
In the early 1990s, Baloo, with a background in food development, moved to Pittsburgh to become sales director for Clark Bar. The bar sank low, but the city’s penguins flew. Out of other ideas, Ballou licensed his Pens logo and slapped it on the packaging. Pittsburgh snapped his 100,000 of them. Barrow thought this could be something.
The following year, he signed Penguin star Mario Lemieux to a deal. No. 66 his NIL painted Mario his bar hit his 300,000 sales mark in Pennsylvania and Canada. The following year, when Reggie Jackson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Baloo signed a deal with Upper Deck to revive Reggie!bars and he sold 500,000.
Baloo had seen enough. He left Clark and another employee and his wife are writing a book from a two-bedroom apartment where he founded PLB. His first foray, salsa and some mustard, struggled. “I don’t know if we were close to closing, but the income was very meager,” he said.
Amid these early struggles, he signed Doug Flutie, who was famous in America for his heroic achievements at Boston University and in Canada with the Toronto Argonauts in 1996 and 1997. Famous for leading the Gray Cup titles in consecutive years. At the time, the Bills were struggling with sellouts, so owner Ralph Wilson signed the quarterback for 1998 in hopes of luring a few fans from the north to Buffalo, Ballou says.
“The contract was for 10,000 boxes, but we didn’t sell them,” Ballou said. Flutie’s son, Doug Jr., had been diagnosed with autism, and Flutie had set up a foundation to support research. He suggested attaching the cereal to the foundation to increase both awareness and funding.
“It skyrocketed,” Ballou said. “Walmart got it and kept it going. That’s what put us on the map and put a little money in my pocket. It also gave me the trust of my agents.”
PLB has started cleaning up the grocery store. nolan ryan steak sauce, [Adam] dead marsh deli dills and [Wayne] The Chrebet Crunch followed and was attended by dozens. The star list included Todd Helton, David Ross, Mike Alstott, TO, Chad “Ochocino” Johnson, Hines Ward, Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Carmelo Anthony.
Two key developments kept the cash register ringing. The first deal was made while Ballou was looking for funding to expand. He was talking to his VC, but it wasn’t very coherent. He instead sold his 7% stake with expertise. “I know product development and retail. They are good at e-commerce and they are really good at social media. ”
The next turn came after a call from WWE featuring a successful tag team trio called New Day, who used the name Bootyos. They wanted to develop a Booty-Os serial. “I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to build a relationship with WWE, so I said yes,” Baloo said. , FYE, not even a grocery store, took it and said they would sell it for $12.95 a box. I thought it was the end of my career.”
Instead, wrestlers endorsed the brand and the cereal also appeared in several WWE storylines. “This shows that people see it as a collector’s item rather than a food item, and it could sell for much more,” he says Ballou. “Most cereal he sells for $4.99 a box, but in a two-pack he’s $15 a box.”
There was no formula for success when it came to finding a partner, though there was a pattern. “We’re looking for great people off the field who are doing great things,” said Baloo, but he compared the process to fantasy football. I’m also looking at it because he has to perform and the team has to perform for it to work. I have not.”
For the actual product, PLB works with athletes to arrive at what they love and mean to them. “When Josh was eating cereal, he liked loops like Bill’s colors, so Josh’s Jacks are blue and red loops.” Wegman’s sells about 30,000 pods a week.
“We are a product development company with a marketing department,” said Ballou, adding that he works with manufacturers and processors who produce products for many big labels. “Our goal has always been to create parity with national brands,” he said.
For athletes, there are few downsides. They provide NIL, social promotion and photo shoot time while PLB is responsible for development, design, website and inventory. Marketing push includes POS displays, social and radio blitz. “We’re a small company,” Ballou said of his team of five. Everyone thinks he needs a six-figure to he seven-figure deal to get someone’s attention, but if you talk to agents with proven ideas that don’t have a lot of downsides, they They listen. ”
More satisfying collaborations include Kurt Warner’s Crunch Time, which sold 150,000 boxes at Hy-Vee stores, the same chain Warner worked for while waiting for his NFL opportunity. Mahomes Magic Crunch stands out not only because he sold 900,000 boxes in just 30 stores, but because the Kansas City quarterback donated every dollar of his stock. “While we do not require all products to partner with a charity, we strongly encourage it,” he says.
In 2023, PLB will again launch 10-15 new products. Ballou is looking to expand Allen’s coffee line and enter the University NIL, where the company will roll out its first products related to English football. “We are profitable and we are expanding,” Ballou said. “This was a skylark turned into a successful business.”
Started in earnest with another Hail Mary from Flutie. Flutie Flakes has sold 3.3 million boxes of his and $16 million has been donated to his foundation. “Doug and I have become friends over the years,” said Baloo. “I met him two years ago in Miami and just hugged. Who could have imagined that?”