When Andy Murray became the first British man to win Wimbledon in 77 years, he reached the height of his endorsement potential.
Adidas, which outbid Fred Perry apparel brand to steal Murray, was finally realizing the fruits of its decision to choose Murray over Novak Djokovic. Officials with the Royal Bank of Scotland, which stuck with Murray throughout a review of its sizable sports marketing budget in the economic downturn, must have been thankful the Scot didn't fall through the cracks.
Industry insiders had speculated that Murray was ready to land a big windfall and could pick the blue-chip brands of choice to join adidas, RBS, Rado watches and Head rackets. So when Murray announced last week that his first post-Wimbledon deal was with a penny stock company, many in the sports marketing world let out a big "Huh?"
The company, Fuse Science, is a consumer products brand whose main products include a muscle rub and energy and hydration shot. At the end of 2011, despite not having a product at retail, Fuse signed a five-year deal to be Tiger Woods' bag sponsor. Its first product, the muscle rub, called Enerjel, hit retail stores only in December. Its smaller shot product finally hit Walgreens stores nationwide this summer.
So how did a company with such a short record at retail, with a total revenue in the past nine months of only $420,000, score Murray at this point in his career?
"It's obviously important to pick the right companies to work with," Murray said. "But getting equity in a company like Fuse allows me to have a greater vested interest in its future, and to help them get to the next level."
Murray, who did not say how much his stake was worth, said when he was first introduced to the products in March, he was intrigued by the company's products in the energy and hydration arena.
"When I play a match, I have to drink a liter and a half of an energy drink about every 40 minutes," Murray said. "And I often drink too much when it gets hot out. I also have problems keeping protein bars or bananas down during matches, so I've resorted to gels so that I don't have to worry about chewing stuff. What Fuse has is a good solution for me."
But much of the company's upside is in a future that admittedly might not pan out. Fuse officials say its products bypass stomach absorption by sublingual absorption, in which products taken under the tongue go directly into the blood stream. Much of its sell to athletes and investors is that, one day, Fuse hopes to license the technology it has developed for all types of medicines.
"The fitness element was the key driver why this deal was done," said Matthew Gentry of XIX Entertainment, which represents Murray. "But the excitement for this company goes beyond that. It could be limitless."
But it's an uphill road. The company's stock, even with the Murray announcement, is hovering at around eight cents a share.
Adam Adler, the founder of Fuse Science, who recently stepped down from his official position and took a consultant role to help reduce costs, said the company's products were slower to market because Fuse had spent everything it had to develop the intellectual property it believes it will one day sell to a bigger company. He says people shouldn't read into its "pink sheet" status.
"Ninety-nine percent of the companies you find on the pink sheets, yeah, they're nothing," Adler said. "But then ask yourself if any company on the pink sheets are backed by Tiger Woods and Andy Murray. Tiger and Andy did a full year of due diligence on us and they both came to the same realization before signing us."
Murray won't play down the risk/reward part of the proposition.
"Any deal you do has a slight element of risk," Murray said. "But if the medicines and the other markets that they dream to be in becomes reality, that's a huge break and it will pay off for me."
Although it's his first post-Wimbledon deal, Murray -- who will appear on Fuse product packaging -- still has a major deal to do. He has a patch opening on his shirt that he still has to sell.