Jeff Pearlman

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Life, Death, 5-Hour Energy

Earlier this evening, while working out at the gym, I caught the above advertisement on the ol’ TV. Take a second and watch it.

On the surface—bravo! The Special Operations Warrior Foundation is an amazing charity; one that has made sure thousands upon thousands of children of deceased military members receive a 100-percent paid-for college education. I mean, there aren’t many charitable endeavors as worthy as this one. There’s nothing political or slimy or anything. It’s just a tremendous cause.

So, again, great, great, great work by 5-Hour Energy, which has partnered with the charity to bring awareness and raise dough. I mean, it’s about time a corporate entity put people first, and here—before us—5-Hour Energy is doing just that by ma—


Yes, bullshit. I’ve written about 5-Hour Energy before, and now I’m writing about 5-Hour Energy again—because somebody needs to. Do me a favor and watch the advertisement again. Hell, watch it twice. Notice anything? No, not the courageous widows of courageous lost soldiers. No, not the (egad) stars-and-stripes bottle of 5-Hour Energy. I’m talking about this—exactly 18 seconds into the spot …

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 11.58.09 PM

See the words at the bottom of the screen shot? Right—neither could I. So I zoomed in, then zoomed in again. And what they tell you is that, with every bottle sold between May 1 and July 31, 5-Hour Energy will donate five cents to the charity.

A friggin’ nickel.

The not-so-good folks at 5-Hour Energy will tell you nickels add up, and—to a certain degree—they’d be right. The small print also tells you the drink company will make a minimum (aka: probably this exact amount) donation of $200,000. Which sounds sorta big, until you remember that A) this is a billion dollar corporation (5-Hour Energy dominates about 90 percent of the national energy shot market).; B) A four-year education at your average American private university these days runs about, oh, $200,000.

Now here’s what the folks at 5-Hour Energy won’t tell you:

• That, instead of buying a $1.75 energy drink that’ll result in five big cents going to charity, you could just skip the damn beverage and donate the full two bucks to the cause.

• That there’s something beyond sinister in having the widows of soldiers hold up photos of their loved ones so you can move product.

• That there’s no way in hell 5-Hour Energy does this campaign if there’s no big money in it for them; that it’s a corporate win-win in that it generates sales and generates amazing PR out of, again, milking dead soldiers.

• That $200,000 is a drop in a drop in a drop in a drop in the bucket for 5-Hour Energy.

Seriously, this drives me insane. I’d rather lick the sweaty testicles of a herpes-infested bull (and I don’t aspire to lick sweaty herpes-infested bull testicles) than buy anything from 5-Hour Energy.

I hope you feel similarly.

  • Sanford Sklansky

    Pretty bad, but I am guessing this is not the only company that operates in this manner.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life