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New LeBron-Backed Energy Strip Seeks To Edge Into Robust Category

The energy category is a huge business. Red Bull sold 4.2 billion cans in 2010 and 5-Hour Energy is now a $1 billion brand.

Source: Sheets

With that in mind, serial entrepreneurs, Warren Struhl and Jesse Itzler are launching a new company PUREBRANDS, whose first product is called Sheets energy strips.

The strip dissolves on a person's tongue and the substance — which includes 50 milligrams of caffeine and vitamins, but no calories or sugar — is swallowed.

"Energy is a big business," Struhl said. "There’s coffee, there’s chocolate, there’s energy drinks, energy shots, lots of different ways to do energy. Our product, Sheets, is really all about a new way of doing energy."

Struhl, who is best known as founder of Dale and Thomas Popcorn and Itzler, who co-founded Marquis Jets and is also an investor in Zico Coconut Water, and aren't messing around.

LeBron James and his business partner Maverick Carter of LRMR are co-founders.

"We saw this when it was just an idea and we went through the whole process of giving our feedback to make it work," Carter said. "This is a great new product that provides athletes with energy in a way that's not out there right now. But the thing is, it's not just for athletes. It's for anyone who needs energy."

The brand got a jumpstart on its $10 million marketing campaign last week thanks to this brilliant viral video with Danilo Gallinari. The video got almost 200,000 hits on YouTube in less than a week.

The idea behind the product is good. The transdermal strip provides a faster delivery system to energy, which is a right away need for the consumer. It also gives athletes the chance to use something that gives them energy, without a fullness from a bar or bloating from a drink.

"What we’re learning is a lot of athletes don’t love the sugary drinks," Itzler said. "They don’t love the bloating and a lot of energy drinks have calories, so we think that this is a little bit better of a mousetrap and professional athletes and recreational athletes and people at work are just gravitating to this kind of delivery system."

The strip idea isn't completely original.

Listerine strips were the first, having launched eight years ago, and the idea has since been used by a small group of pharmaceutical brands, including Benadryl. A company called Enlyten has produced energy strips, sleep strips and even hangover strips. But Enlyten never had the traction that PureBrands has now on Day 1. Itzler and Struhl say they have patent-pending technology that will protect their business and allow them to extend their strip technology into other categories.

Source: Sheets

Struhl says the strip usually starts to work within 15 and 20 minutes and can last for an hour to five hours, depending on the height, the weight and the physical makeup of person.

The product, which will launch at GNC later this month, costs $2.95 for a package of four strips and is individually wrapped. The first flavors are Berry Blast and Cinnamon Rush.

Itzler and Struhl said the response by retailers has been overwhelming.

Carter said that LeBron will eventually be on point of purchase and point of sales displays in stores, but this marketing question remains: Will the NBA insist on the company doing an official deal if LeBron waits until he gets onto the court to put the strip on his tongue?

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com