Members of the Exeter Chiefs' squad put their business brains to the test recently when they visited local drinks manufacturer Frobishers.
The players were challenged to create a new juice drink and come up with a marketing strategy to present in a 'Dragons Den' style pitch to senior members of the Frobishers team.
The day was part of the RPA's (Rugby Players' Association) Player Development Programme which aims to individually assist players in their personal and professional development, helping them to identify a second career and providing them with skills for a smooth transition into life after rugby.
Frobishers was founded in 1992 and sets out to provide their customers with the finest natural fruit drinks in the world. They are committed to making sure that 100% of the juices used in their drinks are from the best fruits and sourced from the most dedicated farmers across the globe.
The first order of the day was to split the group into three teams, with Kai Horstmann, Haydn Thomas and James Hanks selected as team captains. It was decided that the tried and trusted 'playground selection method' would be used to determine the teams and each captain set about selecting the individuals he felt would deliver the goods.
The main aim of the day was to encourage the players to think about where a drink comes from, how it's produced, who it is sold to and how the product would be sold. Haydn Thomas, RPA Player Representative for Exeter Chiefs, believed the day to be a great benefit to the team: "It's been a really enjoyable experience. The way the day has been structured is a lot like the Apprentice, its great being in competition against the other lads. Having the opportunity to gain an insight into something other than rugby has been really beneficial and it's great to support one of the clubs main sponsors."
One of the most popular aspects of the day was when the players were given the opportunity to enter the lab and create their drinks. Chiefs and England Saxons full-back, Jack Nowell, showed particular promise in this area: "I really enjoyed mixing the drinks together to see what product we could come up with. It's been a really good fun day and with James Hanks as our team skipper we were always going to be in with a shout of winning."
Competition was rife amongst the three teams and none of the players were short on confidence when it came to backing their product as the best, Nowell went on to say: "I can't see why Frobishers wouldn't want to market our product after today's event, its clearly the best."
John Breading, Senior National Account Manager for Frobishers, was impressed by the ideas the players presented: "It's been fantastic, the boys have come up with three completely different products, which is a surprise because the obvious choice would be to go down the healthy sports drink route. It's great to see them thinking outside the box and working so well as teams.
"I think it's important for Frobishers as a locally grown business that we embrace what we have on our doorstep and continue to build on our relationship with the Chiefs."
England Under-20's World Championship winner and Exeter fly-half, Henry Slade, was one of a number of the Chiefs' Academy products attending the day: "I didn't really know what to except at first but it's been an awesome day. It's been a really different experience but one all the boys have enjoyed. Frobishers gave us the freedom to design our own product and each team has really embraced the challenge and we have had a great insight into how the business works."
The final part of the day's events was for each group to present their product to senior members of the Frobishers team. The pitch included the name of the product, target audience, ingredients, marketing strategy and the all-important taste test. The three drinks presented were Big Chiefs Tribal Juice, a children's juice based drink, Vitamin Squeeze, an alternative to vitamin tablets and supplements, and Rhythm, a tropical juice cocktail mixer.
The award for best presentation had to go to Greg Bateman and his team-mates, who did their very best to sell Vitamin Squeeze to the panel, but even with the tag line 'We're not just making juice, we're saving lives' they couldn't fend off the challenge of eventual winner, Rhythm.
RPA Player Development Manager for Exeter Chiefs, Josh Frape, believed the players gained a great deal from the experience: "The day was put on to allow the players to get a real insight into what goes on in a business, from creating a product to launch and the processes involved. The aim was to make it fun and engaging allowing the players to learn whilst getting very hands on, which they certainly did. It also demonstrated personal development in the forms of teamwork and being able to present to others, which is important in their rugby careers."
Players attending the day included Jack Arnott, Greg Bateman, Justin Blanchet, Will Carrick-Smith, Joel Conlon, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kieran Davies, Lloyd Fairbrother, James Hanks, Kai Horstmann, Jack Nowell, Sam Simmonds, Henry Slade and Haydn Thomas.