Monster Energy’s lead man in Canada is not only one of the country’s best marketers but he is a passionate sports fan of snow, motocross, BMX, and of course his beloved Vancouver Canucks.
Walton TransCan’s Chris Pomeroy caught up with Nelson Phillips for this one-on-one interview.
MXP: Hey Nelson, how are things?
NP: Things are really good, busy as always but really good. We at Monster Energy are all really excited about 2012!
MXP: First off, a lot of people may not know this but in 2000 when you worked for Spy Optics you built my goggles for each National that Summer and you did an awesome job. If I didn’t thank you then I am thanking you now.
NP: Thanks Chris. That was a pretty fun summer, for sure. It seems like a long time ago now.
MXP: It was definitely a long time; time flies. In 2000 you worked for Spy. How did you get your start in the industry?
NP: Although I have always loved motocross I actually got started on the snow side of the action sports industry. I was working for Spy Optics back then and they had me doing a lot of things: music, fashion,lifestyle, snow and motocross. With goggles and eyewear, snow and motocross obviously have a lot in common. In 2000 I ended up travelling to all of the CMRC Nationals to take care of all of Spy’s riders. Itwas great to be a part of that series and to get to know everyone. Who knew then that twelve years later I would still be a part of the CMRC National Series but on a way bigger scale?
MXP: 2000 was a special year in Canadian Motocross. That was the year everything changed and a new chapter was opened; it seems like just yesterday. You have obviously had quite a journey since then. How did you go from working for Spy to where you are now with Monster Energy?
NP: After 2000, I ended up going to Italy for Spy and managing all of their International Distributors – over 35 distributors globally. I had a great time in Italy. I learned a lot about the business and I got to know a lot of great people. After a few years I had to move back to Canada for family reasons. During that time I was still with Spy looking after some of their customers. It was a really difficult time for me and my family.
I was very fortunate that Spy treated me very well. They allowed me to continue to work and yet do what I had to do for my family.
MXP: That is great that Spy allowed you to do that. I’m sure not every company would be as accommodating as they were. So you moved back to Canada; at what point did you go from goggles and eyewear to energy drinks?
NP: Well, back in 2001 while I was still with Spy, Hansen Energy launched an energy drink and one of the men behind that launch was Scott Sepkovic. I ended up interviewing with Hansen for a job but for whatever reason I didn’t get it. I didn’t really think too much about it because things were going good with Spy so I just kept doing my thing. Then in mid-2006, Scott called me and said that they had put together a distribution deal in Canada between Pepsi and Monster Energy and they needed a marketing guy. It was really the opportunity I had been looking for so I jumped at it. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
MXP: That is a very cool story Nelson. I think it really cements that old adage that if you work hard and pay your dues, good things will come your way.
NP: For sure it does. I learned a lot at Spy and it really helped prepare me for what I face every day at Monster Energy. The action sports industry is a really cool industry, but at the same time it is really a tough one to get into. So many people want to be a part of it; you really have to work hard and bring a lot to the table.
MXP: So you take over the marketing in Canada for Monster Energy. How did the company’s involvement with the CMRC Nationals happen?
NP: It was something that we had talked about during the winter of 2006 but nothing was finalized until literally right before the first round of the 2007 CMRC Series in Quebec. The Series sponsorship and our affiliation with Billy Whitley’s team in 2007 was a great platform for Monster Energy to launch our introduction into Canadian Motocross. It was also pretty cool that Paul Carpenter won the MX1 Championship that year; it was like icing on the cake. Since 2007, we have been going strong here in Canada with Motocross and other sports. I think when people think of motocross and supercross they instantly think of Monster Energy and that is the type of branding we look for. One thing I think not a lot of people know about Monster is that we don’t have a marketing manual. Everyone that works there has synonymous traits and similar convictions for the brand. We all share the same high level of motivation to do our jobs. That is what makes Monster work.
MXP: So everyone at Monster Energy is allowed to have their ideas and they’re able to bring them to the table. Do you think that has been a big part of the growth of the brand because let’s face it, Monster is one of the fastest growing brands in history.
NP: I absolutely think that has been a big part of our growth. One thing we cannot change is the fact that Red Bull invented energy drinks so they are everywhere we go: the track, on helmets, retail stores and night clubs. We can’t change that so we have to try to do things differently. Like I said, we don’t have a manual; we don’t turn to a certain chapter to see what our next move should be. We use our own ideas and try to keep moving forward. I think that is what keeps the brand evolving and fresh. I guess you could sum it up by saying that just because Red Bull and Monster share a fridge at a local store, it doesn’t mean that the two companies are the same. They are not. They may both work but they do things completely differently.