I got a chance to interview MoGo Sport’s co-founder Tom Hoey about his revolutionary mouthguard, who just recently added a new brand ambassador: Golden State Warriors’ own Stephen Curry. Check out MoGo here and see why Steph decided to become the first player in NBA history to wear a flavored mouthguard.
Dhara Taheripour: How did you come about the idea of a flavored mouthguard?
Tom Hoey: My partner, Bruce Angus, and I got exposed to the technology to place flavoring, all-natural flavors, FDA approved flavors into plastic and the way that the process works, it’s actually embedded into the polymer, which are the molecules of the plastic, which is really what makes the technology revolutionary, because past attempts were either heavily scented or it’s coated on the mouthguard and you were it once or twice and after one or two outings, the mouthguard is back to being a plain or unflavored mouthguard. When we got exposed to the technology, being former athletes ourselves, one of the first things we thought of that would be great would be a flavored mouthguard and how cool that would be and a what a great way to change the user experience, which typically has not been a great one, you know wearing a mouthguard, you get that dry mouth, cottony taste and we wanted to go away from that and what we have seen and demonstrated with all the athletes that have had it so far is that it really did change the user experience and as we like to say, it’s gone from a “need to wear” to a “want to wear.”
D: Yeah, I was lucky enough to get some samples and one of the things I noticed, that you mentioned, was the difference between something that would be coated [and embedded flavor] and I had the mouthguard in my mouth and it really tasted like the flavor throughout. I tried out the lemon flavor because that’s the one that Stephen Curry got and I noticed the lemon flavor immediately when I put it in, but I also noticed a continued taste without it becoming duller.
T: Yeah and it’s designed so that we can control the flavor load and we have designed it such that if you are wearing it for long periods of time, you will still get a sense of hydration. The flavoring generates your saliva glands so that’s where you’re getting that hydration effect. If you increase the flavor intensity, our concern is that it’s going to be too much if you are wearing it for an hour, two hour practice or an hour and half practice. You get enough of it and it’s meant to be there and remind you that it’s there, but not overpowering.
D: And obviously also not to be distracting as you don’t want the athlete thinking about how good this mouthguard tastes as the play is going on
T: What we have heard from the top athletes is that the best equipment they wear is the equipment they forget that they are wearing and our goal is that if we can succeed with that with the mouthguard, we really feel like we have a great product for all athletes for all ages.
D: While this might be your breakthrough to the NBA, it’s by no means your breakthrough to the larger professional sports market as you already have Evgeni Malkin and Colin Kaepernick as ambassadors to your brand. Why now and why Stephen Curry for your breakthrough to the NBA.
T: As we look to the NBA players, obviously the mouthguard is front and center. I don’t know what the exact percentages are, but a high percent of players are wearing a mouthguard and we saw that as an opportunity [breakthrough to the league], but equally as an opportunity of finding the right athlete to be the conduit and bring it to youth basketball. Although mouthguards are not mandated for youth basketball, we love to see more and more youth basketball players wearing it for the same reason pro athletes are wearing it. Kids are being exposed to mouth trauma, elbows, what have you to the mouth, especially when you’re underneath the basket and we looked at where is the best avenue to do this and Steph was that person. He is obviously a great athlete. He think he will arguably be, if not arguably already is, the best shooter in the NBA, but also a hard worker and a great example, not just on the court but also off the court as he is a family first individual. We liked all those qualities and we think there are some great programs we can do with him to reach out into the youth market as we build our partnership with him.
D: As you probably already know as well, Under Armour recently was able to woo Steph away from Nike in a shoe deal and obviously Under Armour does not have the same marketplace dominance as Nike, but they choose Steph as their spearhead figure so he is certainly a player that companies will continue to recognize his value as a brand ambassador both on and off the court. Actually a quote from Under Armour’s senior vice president of marketing was “our key attributes for players we want to have on our team are young, underdog and next – and Steph checked all those boxes”. Would you agree with that?
T: Yeah I would. That is well said.
D: Do you see flavored mouthguards being the future of mouthguard technology as we know it and if so, how quickly will that transition be made like have you noticed a greater demand for these mouthguards since Steph’s announcement?
T: Yeah we have. The exposure that we’ve seen just from awareness perspective and even sales on our website has been tremendous. We did independent research a year ago and found that 90 percent of consumers, if they had a choice between flavored and non-flavored, 90 percent of them would chose flavored, no question. We feel the future is flavored and that more and more athletes are choosing a flavored mouthguard and realizing it’s a much better user experience and they won’t go back to a non-flavored product. It’s just the experience of the flavored mouthguard is so much better. You don’t have the negative effects of the dry plasticy taste. You’ve got more hydration sensation that a flavored mouthguard brings and I think once an athlete experiences that, they’re going to stick with it. Our challenge is just to continue to do what we’ve been doing and continue bringing out new flavors, like the lemon flavor with Steph, and bringing out great products from a design and technology standpoint that continue to improve on performance, protection, and fit and I think that’s really going to be the trend going forward and we are hearing that from our retail partners. The flavored product is growing in popularity and grabbing market share quickly
D: And certainly having a voice in the locker room saying “Wow these mouthguards are great”, that’s like an organic way of having the players commit to the brand as well and so do you think the Golden State Warriors could be the first all-flavored mouthguard team in the NBA?
T: [Laughs] That’s a great thought and we would love to see that happen. We would love to work with each player on the team and go that way.
D: Right now you have six different flavors; you have lemon, fruit punch, blue raspberry, mint, orange, and bubble gum. Which one of those is your favorite and could you give us the sneak preview of some of the next flavors you want to roll out?
T: Fruit punch and blue raspberry are my favorites. Fruit punch was one of the originals and has continued to be a strong seller. Blue raspberry we launched this summer and that has quickly caught up to fruit punch. For new products, we have a higher end line called M3 and within that product we have three flavors, citrus sensation, strawberry, and wild berry mix and so far the reviews of all three flavors have been fantastic.
D: Steph is a player who has been an underdog for most of his career, whether it was at Davidson or when he first joined the NBA, whether it’s been about his size or the fact that he didn’t play at a huge school. How much of that, the fact that he is an underdog, and obviously that flavored mouthguards aren’t the most dominate kind of mouthguard in the market factored into your decision to start the partnership?
T: Yeah, there are a lot of similarities. We are the small guy going against some bigger brands in the category and Steph has continued to show, as you mentioned, at every point along his career that he can step up and play at high level, whether it’s taking a small school like Davidson and making it competitive in the NCAA tournament to how well he is doing with Golden State and how well he is performing. That definitely was a piece and equally as important was the type of person he is, a family-first individual.
D: Thank you very much Tom. I really appreciate it. It’s definitely the best tasting mouthguard I have ever used. We see athletes all the time after every dead ball or stop in play pop their mouthguards off, but this is definitely the type of mouthguard that athletes will want to keep in because it really does taste good and a taste that certainly does endure. Congratulate you on making such a great product and congratulate you on breaking through to the NBA. You certainly picked one of the best players to represent the company, both on and off the court, so thank you so much for being able to speak with us. Go Warriors!