Six-time Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall has been a team player for his entire NFL career—but now he’s crafting his own roster, and funding the business they’re building with a personal $10 million investment. The team he’s assembled has helped him launch House of Athlete, a modern gym concept for professional and everyday athletes alike.
The ambitious three-pronged business model—comprised of fitness and training facilities, supplements and apparel—focuses on holistic wellness, from the physical to the mental, in the same way Marshall said a professional sports team does. He opened his first “house” this quarter in Weston, Fla., and launched HOA’s initial supplement and apparel lines.
As Marshall described it, he and his wife, Michi, have “bootstrapped this entire company.” While the approach will ideally eventually create a trio of independent revenue streams, right now it means three businesses to bootstrap during a particularly tricky year for the $4.5 trillion health and wellness industry—which has seen a number of similar businesses file for bankruptcy.
Marshall remains confident in HOA because of its integrated and “all-encompassing” nature, a quality he thinks the pandemic has made even more of a priority for people around the world.
“This industry is trendy,” Marshall told Sportico. “People are trying to figure out ways to scale treadmill classes and cycling classes, but no one has ever scaled athletic performance, giving the general population the lifestyle of the pro athlete—the healthiest people on the planet. How they train, what they eat, the apparel they wear.”
Marshall noted that pro sports teams integrate medical personnel, trainers, massage therapists, chiropractors, mental health specialists and nutritionists, and said HOA is “putting that all into one concept” available to everyone.
With earnings over his 13-year career estimated to be upwards of $80 million, according to contract database Spotrac, Marshall said he’s “probably looking at another $10 million to really feel good about what we’re doing.” That money will go toward funding the growth he has mapped for each of his business areas. HOA is set to break ground on two new facilities in Q1 of 2021, and both the supplement and apparel businesses are slated for new quarterly product launches. Ultimately, Marshall plans to have 43 houses around the world within the next five years—which will cost a lot more than $10 million.
Marshall’s goal in the next three years is to hit $100 million in revenue from supplements alone, to serve as HOA’s working capital “if they need it.” While House of Athlete is a project Marshall has been planning since the 2011 NFL lockout, waiting until 2020 might pay off in terms of the supplement revenue stream. Nutrition Business Journal reported 3.4% growth for sports nutrition supplements in 2019, and the global dietary supplements market was expected to grow $9 billion year-over-year to $132.3 billion in 2020—and that forecast was in February, before COVID-19 cases began piling up in the Western world. Rising health concerns and changing lifestyle and dietary habits are driving increased product demand, according to the report by Grand View Research.
By the end of 2021, Marshall expects House of Athlete products to be “everywhere,” including Amazon, as HOA works to establish itself as a direct-to-consumer as well as brick-and-mortar business. HOA’s three-pronged business portfolio provides for some financial diversification, and allows it to, as Marshall explained, focus on bringing the right people on board to create globally scalable processes and products. But the fledgling company has yet to obtain financial backing beyond the investment of the NFL veteran and his wife.
“This is our company, and we’re confident that we can get it done internally if we have to, 100%,” Marshall explained. “Over the next two years, we’re looking to open L.A., Miami, Dallas and Houston, but [to do that] we have to win on the field first. We have to get pro athletes training in our facilities in the offseason, which we’re starting to do. Look at combine athletes, football players going from college to the NFL Draft: we’ve never had a first-round [pick]. This year, we’ve got 30 athletes committed [to train] here. We’re on track to have potentially 10 to 15 first-rounders, and there’s only 32 damn picks. It’s working—and that success is what’s going to get other athletes interested from an investment standpoint.”
Professional athletes are his first target, but Marshall didn’t dismiss the idea of future investments from corporate partners or sponsors as well. Without disclosing any names, Marshall said House of Athlete is in conversations with a number of his peers that have already found their ways into the investment and venture capital space. (SporticoLive’s Dec. 10 event, Business Beyond the Game, spotlights athletes’ business ventures.)
The collective reach of a group of professional athletes is impressive, said Marshall, who has half a million followers on Instagram. “That’s why our approach to bringing on potential partners starts with professional athletes, because we understand the power of our platform is how powerful it can be if we come together,” he said.
Marshall points to the success of HOA’s production arm, H3 studios, which produces his I Am Athlete podcast, which is also available in video form on social media platforms including YouTube. The show, entering season two, started seven months ago in advance of HOA’s other business endeavors. “We see this growing as a franchise and introducing other athletes and other personalities in different cities,” Marshall said. “I Am Athlete is a platform to be able to create content to tell our stories and to highlight not just House of Athlete, but everything that we’re doing on the nonprofit side as well.”
While I Am Athlete is “100%” a way to talk about holistic health and wellness and promote HOA, Marshall emphasizes that it’s a “totally organic and authentic” way of doing both—summing up his marketing and business philosophy.