The weekend's biggest applause was reserved for AdvoCare's national spokesman: Drew Brees. When the quarterback emerged, the audience -- composed largely of new members -- screamed, roiling with the fervor of the recently converted. As electronic music thumped and images of spinning trophies flashed on a pair of giant screens, Brees, wearing a plaid suit jacket and an AdvoCare medal, strode toward the stage, high-fiving strangers. A regiment of his fellow endorsers, including Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, trailed him. Brees tossed a couple of tiny footballs into the crowd and beamed, covering his eyes as he scanned the crowd.So what is AdvoCare? It's a well..
"You should all be excited," he said. "Because of you, we're gonna make AdvoCare a household name!"
This pitch -- the promise that if you sign up for AdvoCare, you can reap "rewarding" financial results -- draws tens of thousands of new distributors every year. But an Outside the Lines/ESPN The Magazine investigation has found that few of those salespeople will ever achieve that vision. In reality, only a tiny fraction of AdvoCare members earn anything close to a modest income, even as they're pressured by higher-ranking distributors to keep buying inventory. "They plant the seed that you're gonna make money -- life-changing money," says Gabriel Chavez, who joined in 2010.Oh okay it's a pyramid scheme. But it's a pyramid scheme with a promotional event that is called "Success School" so that seems a lot more legitimate. But that's probably not what sold Drew Brees on it. If we know anything about him by now, we can guess that what really hooked him was the fact that this pyramid scheme is also a cult.
And while the company claims its primary objective is selling products, many of its distributors tell a different story. ESPN interviewed more than 30 current and former salespeople, the vast majority of whom said their focus, and the focus of their superiors, was on recruiting other distributors. These new members, many of whom are drawn to the business' strong religious culture or convinced of its credibility by its ties to the sports world, infuse the company with new funds -- money that ultimately flows up to the powerful people who walk the stage at Success School.
Chavez, who lives in Sierra Vista, Arizona, sat in the crowd when Brees spoke three years ago. He had been reluctant to fly to Texas for the event, which cost $119, but he says his superiors pushed him to make the trek. "They told me, 'Put it on your credit card. If your family doesn't support you, go anyways,'" he says. Friends and family members who raise questions about AdvoCare are labeled "dream killers" by other salespeople, according to several distributors.Still not as bad as Jimmy John's but maybe as bad as that crossfit thing Drew was selling last year. All of this does make you wonder what poor old Kevin "Uncle Rico" Houser might have to say.
In any case, it sure does throw Brees's support for that Audubon/Carrollton Boosters soccer field scam at The Fly into a certain sort of light. A lot of 'dream killers" have been asking questions about that one.