AdvoCare International, L.P. is an American company which sells nutritional supplements, weight management, energy, and sports nutrition dietary supplements using the direct selling business model. The company was founded in 1993 by Charles Ragus and employs around 250 people in the United States. Its corporate headquarters are in Plano, Texas.
The company distributes its products in the United States through a network of approximately 60,000 independent distributors, who participate in a compensation plan based on a multilevel marketing model.
Charles Ragus founded AdvoCare in 1993, as a multilevel marketing company that distributes health and nutrition products. Before AdvoCare, Ragus worked as a regional vice president for Fidelity Union Insurance, and as a multi-level marketing distributor for Herbalife. He briefly played defensive end for the National Football League's Kansas City Chiefs in the 1960s. He died in 2001 at the age 58.
AdvoCare offers more than 90 general nutrition, weight loss, energy and sports performance products including Trim, Active, Well, Performance Elite, Skincare and the 24 Day Challenge.
AdvoCare is a multilevel marketing company. In addition to revenue from product sales, AdvoCare distributors can potentially earn additional commissions from sales by their 'downline' distributors. According to the company's 2013 Income disclosure statement, the average annual income, not including expenses, for AdvoCare distributors who were 'active' in 2013 (defined as earning a payment during the year) was $1,704.08.
In a 2010 court case Advocare said that it had around 60,000 active distributors, and had sold approximately 350,000 distributorships since 2003.
AdvoCare is a member of the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA), and participated in the 2010 DSA Code of Ethics Communication Initiative. AdvoCare President Richard Wright served on the DSA Board of Directors in 2011.
Sponsorships and Endorsements
Among AdvoCare's contracted celebrity endorsers are NFL quarterbacks Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith; Major League Baseball pitcher Doug Fister; CrossFit champion Rich Froning; and, previously, Carli Lloyd, Sam Bradford, and Wes Welker. However, their most important spokesman is New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Celebrity endorsers are said to be central to "the Bulletproof Shield," a key sales and recruitment technique used by the company: distributors place themselves at the center of a chart illustrating the company's endorsements and members of its scientific and medical advisory board, and deflects questions about the company by replying, "Well, I don't know about (X), but what I do know is" that particular athletes or doctors have endorsed AdvoCare.
From 2009 until 2013, AdvoCare was the title sponsor of the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana. The 2013 game was known as the AdvoCare V100 Bowl. In 2012, AdvoCare partnered with the Major League Soccer team FC Dallas and became its jersey sponsor.
In 2014, AdvoCare secured the naming rights of a professional sports practice facility located at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. The facility was named the AdvoCare Sports Performance Center and hosted the 2014 training camp for the New Orleans Saints. AdvoCare also became the title sponsor of the 2014 Texas Bowl. In 2016, AdvoCare will be sponsoring the Texas Kickoff and Cowboys Classic games.
In July 2008, Olympic swimmer Jessica Hardy tested positive for the banned breathing enhancer, clenbuterol. Hardy said she had never heard of the substance, attributing the positive result to either a tainted supplement or sabotage. At the time, Hardy had been taking the supplement Arginine Extreme, which she had received for free from AdvoCare in exchange for making product testimonials, and she claimed in a subsequent lawsuit that the company's product was tainted. AdvoCare sued Hardy for making false claims. An arbitration hearing reduced Hardy's suspension after a scientific expert testified that the AdvoCare product was tainted. AdvoCare disputed the panel's findings, saying that two independent laboratories had not found any evidence of Clenbuterol in the supplements.
In 2009, a Dallas County jury awarded $1.9 million in damages against AdvoCare after finding that the company had engaged in deceptive trade practices and unfairly canceled agreements with two of its distributors. According to the lawsuit, litigants Bruce and Teresa Badgett of Arlington, Texas, had been active and profitable marketers of AdvoCare products for more than a dozen years before their distributorship was canceled by the company in 2006 "based upon vague and trumped-up charges." The jury found that AdvoCare engaged in false, misleading or deceptive practices that damaged the Badgetts and that the termination provisions of the distributor contract with AdvoCare were unconscionable, according to court documents. AdvoCare disputed the ruling and on April 30, 2010, filed to appeal the decision on the basis that the plaintiffs were not customers and therefore did not fit the statutory definition necessary to be covered under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The appeal was dismissed on March 13, 2012 and the company was ordered to reimburse the Badgett's for court costs related to their defense in the appeal case.
AdvoCare ceased offering KickStart Spark, targeted to youth age 4-11, after pediatricians had expressed concerns about the product containing 60 mg of caffeine. AdvoCare was also the subject of criticism for its marketing at youth athletic events. In 2005, the company paid $5,000 to sponsor a high school wrestling tournament in Sacramento but after negative publicity, AdvoCare officials said they would not sponsor any more school events.
Wendy Miller of the Beaumont Weight Control Center said AdvoCare's Herbal Cleanse is probably safe for many users, but she suggested that the same results could be achieved without the products.
Advocare has recently been the subject of a critical exposée in ESPN The Magazine. The exposée argues that the company and a small number of distributors at the top of a distribution network makes most of its money from the signing-up of new distributors rather than sales of the product, while exaggerating the likelihood of financial success of distributors when only a few make a significant amount of money; that the company creates a cult-like atmosphere of not questioning the company's claims or the probability of financial success in new distributors, to the point where distributors will shun friends and family members who do so; and that the company is internally riven by divisions over the company's strong use of religious affiliation as part of its business model, with more devout members of the organization using it to gain and hold power in the organization and over its members.