The Coca-Cola Co. on Tuesday said it is acquiring a minority ownership stake in BodyArmor, the sports drink brand backed by basketball star Kobe Bryant, in a move to strengthen the company’s position against PepsiCo’s Gatorade.
The deal will give BodyArmor access to Coca-Cola’s expansive bottling system, enabling the brand to accelerate its growth, and will allow Coca-Cola to increase its ownership stake in the future under defined terms. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“In a fast-moving and dynamic industry, and during a time of unprecedented change at Coca-Cola, we’re challenging the status quo and bringing innovative, boundary-less thinking to our strategic relationships to ensure we are offering the products consumers want,” Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins said in a statement. “BodyArmor is one of the fastest growing beverage trademarks in America and competes in exciting categories. I have no doubt it will prove to be a strong offering to our system alongside our already powerful hydration portfolio as we accelerate our position as a total beverage company.”
The BodyArmor investment will be part of the Coca-Cola North America Venturing and Emerging Brands (VEB) investment portfolio in which BodyArmor will continue to operate independently under co-founder and chairman Mike Repole and his management team. Coca-Cola will become the second largest shareowner in BodyArmor, behind Repole.
“BodyArmor is revolutionizing the beverage industry by providing the hydration that more and more of today’s athletes want and need,” said Repole. “We are confident that this agreement gives us the best opportunity to significantly accelerate our mission to make BodyArmor the world’s best premium sports performance and hydration brand.”
Marketed as a healthier alternative to traditional sports beverages, BodyArmor contains no artificial colors or flavors and is made with potassium and other electrolytes, vitamins and coconut water. BodyArmor Sports Drink is available in 12 flavors and has been endorsed by many athletes, including James Harden, Mike Trout, Dustin Johnson, Andrew Luck and Skylar Diggins-Smith.
In 2013, Kobe Bryant became the No. 3 shareholder in the company, marking a turning point of the brand’s success with his involvement with marketing and partnerships. Bryant will continue to be heavily involved with the brand as BodyArmor expands to global markets in the future, the company said.
"I am extremely excited about this agreement because the Coca-Cola system has an amazing track record of growing explosive brands that consumers love and allowing entrepreneurial startups like BodyArmor to continue to be independent and focused on achieving the aggressive growth goals that we set out to achieve when we launched this amazing brand in 2011," Repole said.
Previously, Repole has had success co-founding and incubating other brands, including smartwater and vitaminwater, which joined the Coca-Cola portfolio in 2007, and have since become billion-dollar brands with global availability.