Last week, we called attention to the ad that is sweeping the Internetby storm.
If you cruise around enough, you've seen it. It's a picture of a woman named Nora Tobin and she's endorsing a brand called FRS Energy.
The ad told us that Tobin was a volleyball player, but beyond that, we were lost. We had never heard of her.
We started with the AVP Tour, where Tobin played a couple of events, but they didn't return our call.
A Google search came up with few hits for Tobin. A picture of her led us to a photographer in Santa Barbara. He suggested we talk to an official for the California Beach Volleyball Association, who had Nora's number on file and called it for us.
Before Nora called us back, we dialed up the folks at FRS to find out exactly who they were. All we knew was that Lance Armstrong was not only an endorser of the product, but he also had an ownership share.
We spoke to the brand's chief executive Maigread Eichten. Eichten told us that the FRS brand comes in concentrate,in cans and in chews. It was formulated to help cancer patients keep up their energy throughout chemo treatments, but Eichten says its key ingredient, quercetin, could also improve athletic performance.
While FRS got its product into GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and in supermarkets on the west coast, it also embarked on one of the lowest cost sports marketing campaigns ever.
A man named Marcus Elliott runs a training center called P3in Santa Barbara, Calif., and gives FRS Energy product to his athletes. Once the company found out about this, they offered to give some of Elliott's clients free product in exchange for their endorsements.
One of those athletes was Nora Tobin, who e-mailed a picture to the company, which is the shot that is featured in the advertisement.
Eichten said that through a proprietary strategy, the company is the No. 1 most advertised consumer product on the Internet, having garnered more than six billion impressions last year.
"I can't tell you about our secret sauce," Eichten said. "All I will say is that we don't pay the ad rates that the big boys pay."
Helped by their free trial offer, Eichten said sales are up 275 percent from last year.
Having Nora grab some eyeballs doesn't hurt either.
"She's obviously quite attractive and we've had terrific response with her ad," Eichten said. "That's from both male and female customers."
So who is this Nora Tobin?
She told us she's a 21-year-old, former lifeguard whose dream is to become a full-time professional volleyball player.
She left San Diego to trade in her surfing lifestyle for the better volleyball in Santa Barbara. While a student at Santa Barbara City College, she started training at P3 with Marcus Elliott, who introduced her to FRS.
"It's not just my body on an ad," Tobin told us. "I really use this product as both an energy and recovery drink."
The five-foot-nine Tobin told us that she's currently searching for a partner (a playing partner, that is) to take her to the next level, while she finishes up school and solicits sponsorship proposals.
Without her picture on the FRS ad - that is now all over the Internet from this blog to ESPN.com's scoreboard page- Tobin's chances of scoring any corporate support would be slim. But Tobin knows what this has done for her.
"It seems like this is a new start for my career," said Tobin, who is not sure what, if anything, FRS has in store for her. For what it's worth, we noticed over the past couple days that when you search "Nora Tobin," there's now a Google ad that pops up that says "Nora Tobin's Choice." That links back to the Web site for FRS.
For those who were wondering, Tobin said no photoshop was used in the ad picture.
"That's my body," Tobin said. "I'm in the best shape of my life."
But all isn't normal in Tobin's life since the ad hit. She said that so many people she didn't know contacted her on Facebook that she had to change things on the site.