Coca-Cola invests in Kobe Bryant-backed sports drink

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Coca-Cola will acquire a minority stake in BodyArmor, a company backed by retired basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, in an effort to battle Gatorade for the top spot in the sports drink market, the company announced on Tuesday.

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Under the agreement, BodyArmor will have the opportunity to gain access to Coca-Cola’s bottling system, with the potential for global expansion, the brand known for its soda said.

The investment will be part of the Coca-Cola North America Venturing and Emerging Brands investment portfolio and BodyAmor will still operate as an independent company with its co-founder, Mike Repole, and management team continuing to lead the business. Through the transaction, Coca-Cola will become the second-largest shareholder behind Repole. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

“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 backed by multiple athletes, including Bryant, who became the No. 3 shareholder in the company in 2013 and will continue to be “heavily involved” in the brand, particularly as it looks to reach the global stage. Other athletic standouts backing the sports drink include Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Houston Rockets guard James Harden and pro golfer Dustin Johnson.

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While Gatorade, owned by Coke’s rival PepsiCo, still rules the sports drink marketplace, netting about three-quarters of the $8 billion in U.S. sports drink sales, according to The Wall Street Journal, which said the product’s sales have declined in recent quarters. Though still lagging in sales to Powerade, BodyArmor is expected to have about $400 million in revenue in 2018, according to the Journal.

Similar to Gatorade and Powerade, BodyArmor is made with electrolytes and other vitamins and potassium, though it uses coconut water and is marketed as containing no artificial colors or flavors.

BodyArmor will be considered a premium drink above Powerade, Dinkins said, according to the Journal.

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