A multiyear partnership with the New Jersey Devils has been a glow-up for natural skincare line genucel. While the Edison-based Unimed International Inc.-owned brand already had a loyal following, genucel is in a different league after being named as the Devils’ Official Team Skincare Partner in February 2022.
A little over a year into the five-year deal, genucel says its first-ever tie-up with a professional sports organization has been an exciting way to boost visibility and drive new customers to the brand.
Founded 25 years ago in Colonia by pharmacist George Faltaous after a customer asked him to formulate a wrinkle cream for her skin, Unimed International has gone on to develop two clean, natural skincare banners within its portfolio. Chamonix Skin Care products range from wrinkle treatments, skin brighteners and firming serums to hair treatments and supplements, while genucel’s anti-aging lineup includes serums, moisturizers and eye creams designed to help women and men visibly repair, treat and protect overall skin health against aging.
“Our business over the last 20 years has been built on personal endorsements: first on radio, then through TV and, as consumer behavior has shifted, we moved towards podcasts and other on-demand channels,” said Shaun Dolan, Unimed International’s chief marketing officer. “The trouble is that these mediums ultimately have a ceiling, and we were looking for scale. Originally, we were going to approach Rutgers since they are the State University and minutes from our office.”
However, after Dolan attended the Devils season opener in October 2021 at Prudential Center, he saw the passion fans have for their hometown hockey and reconsidered.
That evening, the arena was whipped into a frenzy after Devils forward Jack Hughes scored a game-winning goal in overtime and celebrated the victory over the Chicago Blackhawks by throwing his stick into the stands.
The following Monday, Dolan reached out to a season ticket sales agent, who put him in contact with a representative from the Devils’ partnerships team.
“To be honest, I wasn’t sure anything would develop,” he recalled. “But, sure enough I received a Zoom invite hours later to hop on a call with the VP of partnerships. We spoke about our goals and they told us how excited they are to be the first NHL brand with a skincare line as their partners and the opportunities that this would create for both brands.”
As traditional forms of advertising no longer generate the same return they once did, companies are increasingly shifting marketing and advertising budgets to sports sponsorships. Currently worth an estimated $57 billion, the market is projected to grow to almost $90 billion by 2027, with financial services, technology and the automotive industry expected to continue generating the largest revenue within sports sponsorships, according to Nielsen Sports.
Recognized as an effective marketing tool, such deals can promote positive brand affinity, build brand awareness and promote new products or services.
From signage to on-site activation to special jerseys with logos to integrated digital campaigns, a sponsorship can net a brand valuable exposure with one of the most passionate, emotional and engaged audiences out there – sports fans.
For businesses, building a partnership with a team, athlete or venue is likely money well spent, as consumers tend to regard brand sponsorships at sporting events as very trustworthy, which provides an opportunity for conversion.
Within New Jersey, several companies have forged high-profile sports sponsorships. For instance, Mars Wrigley’s Snickers brand chocolate bars has helped power WrestleMania for nearly a decade as a joint presenting sponsor of World Wrestling Entertainment’s signature annual event.
The National Hockey League named Jersey Mike’s Subs as its official sub sandwich in a multiyear pact announced in February, marking the sandwich chain’s first ever sponsorship with a professional sports league. Some of the fast-growing franchise’s other sponsorships include the Harlem Globetrotters 2023 U.S. tour and the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games. Additionally, Jersey Mike’s has a multiyear agreement with Rutgers Athletics as official naming rights partner for the university’s sports arena.
Via the partnership, genucel receives brand exposure on the Devils’ Raw Interviews as well as Post-Game Show. There’s also an in-game promotion dubbed the “De-Aging Game,” in which playful renderings of current team players’ faces aged several decades on displayed on the venue’s four-story tall scoreboard and winners who guess correctly receive complimentary genucel products.
In addition, genucel’s men’s skincare line is distributed in the Devils locker room facilities and is available for fans to try samplings of at the main course of Prudential Center at select games.
Dolan said the platform has certainly given a boost to the brand’s visibility. “We are interacting with new customers that we would have never otherwise been able to reach using our other advertising channels,” he explained. “It’s also brought attention from other teams and pro sports leagues.”
“We saw our biggest lift in brand awareness. We discovered that despite being a New Jersey-based direct to consumer brand, many New Jersey residents have not heard about genucel skincare as a result of our traditional target marketing,” he explained. “This definitely shifts our goals for the past 12 years to a heavily focused brand awareness, brand recognition approach versus a hybrid branding/sales generation that we originally had designed.
“At the conclusion of this season, it’s safe to say that we have seen success. Our social media following exploded across multiple platforms. Our Instagram followers [increased by] 100% from Q1 to Q2, much of that driven from Devils awareness and our Twitter followers increased over 200% during Q2, solely driven by posts related to the Devils,” Dolan went on.
For the upcoming season, Dolan said the game plan is “to continue to capitalize on this awareness/engagement and now be able to drive sales with more integrated branding between our brand, the Devils, and Devils’ players.”
Before the partnership, genucel’s brand recognition “was limited to our core demographic of adults over the age of 40, who primarily consumed news/talk media,” giving it an annual sales average of between $12 million to $13 million, he said. As a result of higher customer loyalty and increased positive sentiment for the brand, Dolan anticipates those figures to rise in coming years.
The buzz that’s been generated has been thrilling. “As we connected with the fans through social channels, we saw and felt the excitement from the fanbase,” he said. “We used a few micro-influencers within the Devils’ fanbase community to establish the partnerships as a deeper connection between two ‘Made in Jersey’ brands and how the team overseeing the partnership is also made of lifelong Devils fans, too. That was the key to helping further establish credibility with the diehard fanbase.”
For the team at Unimed International, Dolan said there’s been several amazing moments over the last year-and-a-half. “Our entire team has become Devils hockey since the partnership began,” he said. “Most of our team has been with the company for over a decade and we’ve always been a ‘small’ company despite the national presence. Now, to attend Devils games and see our brand logos on the big screen or to see TV commercials with Devils’ hosts and former players has brought a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to all of us. We’re in a different league now.”
He added, “Personally, I grew up a Devils fan. I was raised in Newark – a few minutes from where the Prudential Center now sits – and would travel to East Rutherford when they played in the Meadowlands. Now, at this point in my career working with my childhood team has been surreal,” he said.
The collaboration is just the latest example of the Devils organization’s longstanding effort to celebrate the many innovative companies that call New Jersey home, such as LeGrand Coffee House, Toms River Brewing, Allied Beverage Group, Prudential Financial, the Newark Paper Co. and Calandra’s Bakery.
Over the past season – during which the Devils made the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time since 2018, following one of the best single-season turnarounds in league history – the organization added even more New Jersey-born businesses to its roster of partners through its 2-year-old “Made in Jersey” campaign.
This winter, Mike’s Amazing, a condiment brand owned by Saddle Brook-based Chefler Foods, was named as the Official Mayonnaise, Mustard & Vegetable Oil of the Devils and Prudential Center, while Freehold-based Beverage USA Holdings Inc.’s Nerd Focus was designated as the team’s Official Energy Drink.
Chad Biggs, senior vice president of corporate partnerships activations for the New Jersey Devils & Prudential Center, said, “We are proud to partner with a New Jersey based business that reflects our ‘Made in Jersey’ campaign and commitment to local businesses.”
“Our partnership with Unimed emphasizes that skincare is for everyone of all ages, as seen with our Devils alumni and media influencers driving brand awareness about the natural products throughout the season,” he added.
Faltaous, Unimed International’s CEO, said his business remains excited to partner with the team and noted their shared values.
“Our company has been dedicated to delivering quality skin care products to our customers, and we also have a long-standing commitment to charitable programs. As an organization, we focus on empowerment and improving the lives of our employees, customers, and local communities. We are looking forward to expanding our community outreach, while working with the Devils to continue the shared tradition of winning and excellence,” he said.
According to Forbes, as of December 2022, The Devils franchise is valued at a record-breaking $960 million, which is a significant increase from $775 million in 2021 and $530 million in 2020.