May 01, 2012
Sportron: Shifting Focus to Transform More Lives
by Barbara Seale
Texas-based Sportron has achieved a triple crown that any wellness company would envy.
Dr. Alan Tomlinson and Keith Harding, Co-Founders of Sportron.
First, it just refocused its product line and marketing efforts on the world’s obesity epidemic through its Renew90 Body Transformation program. Second, its nutrition products—including Renew90—are based on FoodMatrix® technology, which gives their nutrients superior bioavailability and retention by the body. Third, the company is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month, making it an established debt-free choice for entrepreneurs looking for a way to inexpensively start a business.
Sportron was founded by longtime friends Keith Harding and Dr. Alan Tomlinson, both natives of South Africa. For 15 years after Harding immigrated to the United States they waited for the right time to launch their dream company. Finally, in 1991, the time was right for both. They played to their strengths: Both were direct selling veterans in wellness companies, and Tomlinson is a globally respected authority in complementary medicine. The two combined their passions and expertise to create Sportron International, a company with the goal of changing every dimension of life: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and social. In 1992 the company launched into action in the United States. The following year it went international by starting business in South Africa under Tomlinson’s management. Today the company is growing, is debt-free and operates in 40 countries. Its largest markets are the United States, South Africa and Asia.
Sportron was founded by longtime friends Keith Harding and Dr. Alan Tomlinson, both natives of South Africa.
After 20 years, Harding and Tomlinson are still committed to their vision for the company. And with the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, they believe more than ever in their company’s power to make a difference in lives all over the world.
“Healthcare is expensive today,” says Tomlinson, the company’s Chairman. “People need to stay healthy. So from our point of view, there is nothing more constructive than thinking about wellness from all these dimensions. We’re also helping people stay younger longer with our products.”
Kevin Harding Named Sportron USA President
Harding’s Sportron career started when he was still in high school. He worked in the company’s warehouse and took orders, learning the business from the ground up. After college, he went to work with both of his parents in the family business. He shares his parents’ philosophy on company culture, valuing the hard work and ideas of employees at every level. He says he has also formed many great friendships among Sportron’s distributors.
“We’ve always been a close family, and we get along well,” he notes. “I joined Sportron because this was a field I was interested in. Network marketing is not an easy industry, but it’s very rewarding. With the lifestyle you live, the friends you make and the trips you take with everyone’s families, the industry as a whole is very attractive. And my business relationship with my parents just works.”
Harding is proud of Sportron’s stability and 20-year history. He believes that those strengths provide a firm foundation for growth and expansion, especially in the United States. He says that as President of Sportron USA, his focus is just that: focus.
“My main focus is to get our leaders focused on just one or two things,” he says. “We have this wonderful [FoodMatrix®] technology and many different products. Some of our top leaders have used various techniques and systems to promote them over the years. But starting this year with the Renew90 program we just launched, my goal is to get leaders to be more focused on one system and one program so we’re all calling the same plays. That’s my main objective, both short term and long term. For us, that will go a long way.”
He adds that his parents have done an outstanding job of running Sportron and he plans to continue to follow their strong example.
“They’ve been incredibly passionate about Sportron, and it shows,” he says. “I just hope to continue that same passion, will and desire for its success that they’ve had for the last 20 years.”
He notes that the United States is home to 77 million baby boomers and 53 million other adults between the ages of 40 and 50. Moreover, at least half the people in the country say they would like to lose weight. That creates a huge marketplace of some 150 million prospects who might be interested in Sportron’s innovative products. And that’s in the United States alone. Some 80 percent of Sportron’s sales volume comes from its international operations.
No matter where it operates, Sportron has a key competitive advantage. Sportron uses a unique delivery technology, FoodMatrix, in its line of wellness, weight-loss and personal care products. The products’ value is that they are recognized, absorbed and utilized by the body just like real food.
FoodMatrix nutrients are up to 12 times more bioavailable and retained up to 16 times longer by the body. The bioavailability is so efficient that they need only be taken in conservative amounts.
With his expertise, Tomlinson is the company’s authority on the science behind the FoodMatrix delivery system (see the sidebar, “FoodMatrix, the Sportron Advantage”), but Harding, International President and CEO, summarizes how the process is used in making Sporton’s products.
“Our products are real food, as close to natural as you can get,” he says. “FoodMatrix technology also takes the nutrient and delivers it to the parts of the body that need it. We’re proud of the technology and its amazing results.”
That unique technology gives Sportron nutritional supplements their unique benefit, and it adds the same value to Renew90, the whey protein weight-loss shakes that are Sportron’s new flagship product. They are at the heart of a brand-new marketing program that fits hand-in-glove with the company’s objectives of changing every aspect of lives.
“We expanded part of our vision because obesity has become an emergency,” Tomlinson explains. “It is not only an American phenomenon. It’s a problem around the world. That emergency situation requires an emergency intervention, so we developed a comprehensive plan against obesity in the world.”
Creating a Community of Customers
That plan, called the Renew90 Body Transformation, is built on a fitness program with a 90-day cycle. Business builders and customers have community support as they replace one or two meals a day with Renew90 shakes and complementary Sportron products. They adjust their goals every 90 days. Whether they want to lose additional weight, tone and firm, or maintain their results, the community and Sportron products help support them. Along the way, they can earn the opportunity to obtain free products by introducing the Renew90 Body Transformation to friends. When three friends sign up for their own transformation pack on autoship, the original participant receives the next month’s pack free, and their support system grows even stronger.
The program broadened the entire company’s focus beyond business builders and nutrition supplements and expanded it to include the company’s customers.
“We expanded part of our vision because obesity has become an emergency. It is not only an American phenomenon. It’s a problem around the world.”
—Dr. Alan Tomlinson, Chairman
“We’re focusing on building a customer base. It’s easier to get customers excited about their life and get them involved because they don’t have to make the time or financial commitment to building a business,” Harding says. “We’re still looking for business builders, of course, but over the next few years we’ll improve the lives of thousands and thousands of customers as they enroll in the Renew90 Body Transformation and use our products.
“We want to make it fun,” Harding continues. “We’ll give prizes to people who are achieving success—everything from cruises to makeovers to a day at a spa. Losing weight can be hard work, but we want it to also be exciting and motivating. In addition, the pounds fall off! When you combine watching what you eat with exercise, Renew90 shakes, and support, people will lose weight and feel better about themselves. It goes back to our whole vision and mission.”
Tomlinson notes that the company’s scientists chose whey protein as their shake’s foundation because it contains all essential amino acids. Then they added FoodMatrix chromium for its positive influence on insulin resistance, CLA to fight inflammation, white kidney bean to block carbohydrate absorption, and natural stevia as a sweetener—a lot of weight-loss power for only 95 calories per serving.
“We wanted to come out with a great product,” Tomlinson says. “We want to give people the best opportunity to lose weight and keep it off. They’ll also be successful because of our system. It gives people a pathway to success. And when customers win, everybody wins.”
FoodMatrix, the Sportron Advantage
Take the nutrient that everyone knows: vitamin C. Tomlinson notes that most products offer vitamin C as the stand-alone extract ascorbic acid typically sourced from oranges and other citrus fruits. That stand-alone nutrient is referred to as a chemical isolate, and it’s the pharmaceutical standard for most supplements. But the body has trouble recognizing and processing the chemically isolated forms of nutrients. The digestive process requires a delivery system where nutrients are taken from the gut into the blood so that they can be utilized appropriately. The delivery system depends on proteins to provide the vehicle for transport, but because isolated chemicals are not embedded in protein, they are poorly absorbed and bioavailability is diminished. The absorption factor for most chemical isolates is around 5 percent and very rarely exceeds 20 percent.
But Tomlinson observes, “Vitamin C never occurs in nature on its own. With ascorbic acid, you’ve taken a single element from the orange and have left all the other food factors that make the orange contribute to wellness. Food is made of protein, carbohydrates, lipids, enzymes, bioflavanoids and other substances—just what the body needs to process the nutrients. FoodMatrix Vitamin C contains that nutrient at a high level, plus all the other elements that make up the food.”
He notes that Scranton University looked at the bioavailability of vitamin C as a chemical isolate versus in FoodMatrix form. Bioavailability is a concept that includes absorption, retention, assimilation and utilization. Those studies revealed that the half-life of the chemical isolate ascorbic acid is approximately two hours—meaning that two hours after ingestion, there will be no further absorption. The bioavailability of ascorbic acid is noted at USP100. Tests done with FoodMatrix Vitamin C showed some astounding results. The half-life was extended to 18 hours and the bioavailability shot up to USP1210.
The support that the 90-day program offers reflects the Sportron culture. Relationships come first there—so much so that it even offers relationship training inspired by John Maxwell’s book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. Harding insists that building real relationships is good business as well as being the right thing to do. It does everything from helping distributors build their business to retaining distributors.
“This business is about connecting—getting involved with people, placing emphasis on you and not on me,” Harding says. “We believe in relationships, and we develop relationships with our leaders and train them on developing relationships. We primarily offer the training at the leadership level, then they trickle it down. You grow in two ways: recruiting and retaining. What relationships do is help you retain people. Our distributor retention has increased dramatically as a result.”
“What relationships do is help you retain people. Our distributor retention has increased dramatically as a result.”
—Keith Harding, International President and CEO
Sportron started the training about two years ago, and within the first six months saw enrollment increase by 25 percent per month and dropouts decrease from 8 percent to 5 percent per month. Harding says the training has continued to deliver on its promising results.
That culture of building relationships and caring about people also permeates the company’s philanthropy. Sportron channels an impressive 15 percent of its profits directly into carefully chosen charities. Two organizations it supports are especially notable: a home in South Africa that provides clothing, food and housing for 40 children who have been orphaned by the AIDS epidemic there; and Abounding Grace Ministries, which runs several “street programs” that help drug addicts while also reducing the potential side effects of drugs: prostitution, gangs and guns. The commitment to back worthwhile organizations springs from Sportron’s goal to support its participants’ spiritual lives, which the founders believe are at the heart of everything else.
“Our philosophy from the beginning has been that we can only spend so much money,” Harding says. “Building up massive treasures on this earth won’t necessarily help us. We have a great life, and we’re very comfortable. We’ve seen all our financial dreams become a reality. We also want to give. So we give personally from our individual finances and we give corporately.”
Restructuring for Growth
Expanding all that influence globally is the purpose behind recent management reorganization. Harding’s son Kevin was named President of Sportron USA in March, forming two new advantages at the company. It created greater focus on the United States, where Sportron wants to grow its market, and it carved out time for Keith Harding to focus on its next international ventures: Central and South America. He will concentrate on entering those markets and on expanding the company’s Hispanic and ethnic markets in the United States, as well.
Sportron’s vision is to increase its sales by $100 million worldwide over the next three years and to increase its business partners from its current 300,000 to 500,000 worldwide.
“With our new direction and focus, we are going to accomplish this,” Harding says. “And we’ll have a lot more customers as a result—not just in the United States, though we believe a large percentage will come from here. We have facilities where we can physically expand, and we’re fortunate that, living in this age of technology and online ordering, all our goals are very achievable.”
Editor’s Note: It is with great sadness we report that during the production of this issue of DSN Dr. Alan Tomlinson, the Co-Founder and Chairman of Sportron, died suddenly of a heart attack on April 3. We convey our condolences to Sportron, his family and friends.