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By Athletes, For Athletes
[Editor's Note: This week, we're kicking off a recurring feature called the Industry Leaders Series, which will consist of conversations with CEOs, founders, and senior executives from some of the most respected and innovative companies in the sports supplement field. Our purpose is to provide our readers with unique insights into the most effective products and the philosophies behind their creation, as well as an overview of where the supplement science world stands today and where it's going to be in the near future. Helping us get this series off to a rousing start is Brad Pyatt, former NFL standout and founder and CEO of MusclePharm, Inc.]

ProSource: Can you state the basic philosophy of MusclePharm and how it translates into the manufacturing and marketing of your products?

MusclePharm Supplements
Brad Pyatt, MusclePharm CEO and Founder
Brad Pyatt, MusclePharm CEO and Founder: Athletes shape the MusclePharm vision. It's that simple. Unlike most companies in this industry, our core executives are former athletes. Myself personally, the CEO and Founder, most notably played in the NFL. Jeremy Deluca, our President and CMO, had numerous full-ride college football scholarship offers, and Co-Founder Cory Gregory is a fitness and powerlifting phenom. During our competitive days, we each used nutritional supplements and experienced the positives as well as the negatives. That's why, before anything else, we invested extensively to ensure our supplements met standards of product integrity and safety that other companies don't match. As ex-athletes, we demand that our products set the standard in areas like being free of banned substances. We consult with independent testing groups about every MusclePharm product.

Jeremy, Cory and I are so committed to our business because we are committed to this way of life. Cory has 280,000 followers on Twitter because his ideas on fitness truly help people. We brought Jeremy in, with his long history of being a thought leader in our industry, to give our team all sorts of new insights into how best to meet our customers' needs.

The second wave of athletes shaping our vision comes from the professional athletes who consult with us. They aren't just spokespeople; they give us feedback on things like, say, taste, that a consumer will notice as well. Our in-house team of scientists and our medical advisory board make sure our supplements are top-of-the-line and free of banned substances, then the athletes help us perfect the end product for our consumers.

ProSource: What key feature of the many popular products in your line distinguishes it from those of your competitors?

Brad Pyatt:
The combination of taste, effectiveness and science sets MusclePharm apart. We're the only company with an in-house Research and Development facility and Sports Science Center that help us stay on the edge of--and sometimes break through the edge of--science.

Our athletes work out in our Sports Science Center while testing our products, which helps our doctors receive real-time feedback. Once again, athletes give our doctors their take on things like taste and product consistency. If they wouldn't want that same flavor every day, for instance, we want to know so we can tweak the taste before marketing to consumers.

ProSource: How important is customer feedback in MusclePharm's research and development process? What is the primary means by which customers communicate their issues with your company?

MusclePharm Supplements
 Cory Gregory, MusclePharm Co-Founder
Brad Pyatt:
Customer feedback is a big reason Cory is dedicated to keeping in touch through his Twitter feed. He has over 280,000 followers--that number beats every competitor and retailer in this industry. (But Cory would gladly take more, everybody! Follow him at: @MusclepharmPres)

Besides Twitter, our Facebook page helps us stay in touch with people as well. Being a new company, we didn't have the funds to make big, expensive TV commercials. But we learned the Web is invaluable for maintaining a dialogue about fitness and creating products for athletes--professional, amateur and athletes at heart.

ProSource: Can you describe a recent promotion or product launch that MusclePharm undertook and why that promotion was successful?

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Brad Pyatt:
Amino 1 was huge for us, the recovery/intra-workout drink has been our most successful launch to date. A ready-to-drink, effective intra-workout was missing from this space. Some companies offered mixable options, but there was still a need that wasn't being met. When Jeremy, Cory and I started exploring, we realized people (by this, I mean athletes of all kinds) want a hydration/recovery drink that they would ENJOY DRINKING. That's the part of it. Adding instantized BCAAs and coconut water for absorption were huge, but we wanted a product that was also superior in taste. We credit Jeremy Deluca's experience in the sports nutrition industry with helping us learn more about customers and their demand for a great-tasting product than we would have before he came on board.

We created the drink based on hitting a certain price point, too. Not every athlete gets paid millions, right? To launch, we offered 100,000 samples at the Olympia Weekend and that jump started the sales momentum in ways we couldn't have foreseen.

ProSource: Of the following choices: a) pricing b) product effectiveness c) customer service, which is most important to the MusclePharm customer and why?

MusclePharm Supplements
Jeremy Deluca, MusclePharm President and CMO
Brad Pyatt:
Sorry, we can't pick one of those. All three are strengths of MusclePharm. For instance, we haven't cut any corners in terms of delivering superior products, but we're keeping the prices manageable because this economy is still a tough one. And we have a following among high school athletes; we want them to become MusclePharm fans and stay with us as they develop their bodies.

ProSource: Pick one supplement product category that you believe is poised for great change and advancement in the coming two or three years. What is it, how and why will customers see that impact?

Brad Pyatt:
The Recovery/Hydration space is only beginning to take off. Athletes of all types want to decrease downtime as much as they can, and scientists like ours are discovering new ways to accomplish this. Products in this arena can also be used as alternatives to caffeine, so that's another benefit. That's why we went full-force with Amino 1.

Amino 1 was the combination of Jeremy's retail knowledge and Cory's dialogue with our consumers. I have always been central to the marketing vision, but the three of us together maximize MusclePharm and cover every management angle for this business.

Which I have to say is the best business around! We work out, develop great products and have a blast doing it!

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