Coca-Cola acquires minority stake in Kobe Bryant-backed sports drink

The Coca-Cola Company has acquired a minority ownership stake in BODYARMOR, a line of sports performance and hydration drinks backed by American former professional basketball player Kobe Bryant. Through the transaction, Coca-Cola will become the second largest shareowner in BODYARMOR, behind co-founder and chairman Mike Repole.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, and the investment will be part of the Coca-Cola North America Venturing and Emerging Brands investment portfolio. Meanwhile, BODYARMOR will continue to operate independently under Repole.

The agreement will allow BODYARMOR to gain access to Coca-Cola's expansive bottling system, bolstering its growth to meet increasing consumer demand. The initial investment is uniquely structured to create value for both companies and allow Coca-Cola to increase its ownership stake in the future under defined terms, the press statement said.

The BODYARMOR trademark includes BODYARMOR Sports Drink, BODYARMOR LYTE Sports Drink and BODYARMOR SportWater. Created by co-founders Repole and Lance Collins, BODYARMOR brought on board Bryant as its third shareholder in 2013, with him being involved in creative, marketing and partnerships. Bryant will continue to be heavily involved in the brand, as it aims to expand into global markets moving forward.

In the meantime, Repole also co-founded and incubated other brands including smartwater and vitaminwater, which joined the Coca-Cola portfolio in 2007.

“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," Coca-Cola North America president, Jim Dinkins, said.

He added that Coca-Cola is challenging the status quo and bringing innovative, boundary-less thinking to its strategic relationships to ensure it is offering the products consumers want.

Repole said that it is confident the agreement gives BODYARMOR the "best opportunity" to significantly accelerate its mission to make the brand the world’s best premium sports performance and hydration brand.

"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 start-ups 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," he added.