Coca-Cola joins BodyArmor of Kobe Bryant in a sports drink fight

Kobe Bryant celebrates winning an Academy Award for the best animated short film. (Reuters / Mike Blake)

Imagine that Kobe Bryant was not a retired basketball player. Imagine that Kobe Bryant was just rich and invested in a young sportdrinkery. And then imagine that that random rich guy tried to convince people to drink what that company sold instead of Gatorade.

It probably would not work. That is the lesson of BodyArmor, a sports drink company that bought Coca-Cola a minority share last week. This industry is a big masterclass about the power of celebrities. It is the way Bryant converts $ 6 million in seed money into $ 200 million in just four years.

"If you do not have the marketing dollars that the big boys use, what's the best way to market your product all the time? Make sure a great celebrity is part of your product," says Duane Stanford. , executive editor of the trade publication Beverage Digest. "It not only brings your product to the market, but now you have an extra story to tell."

In this case the story comes down to: Why is your celebrity – in this case Kobe Bryant – not drinking? Gatorade?

Gatorade, a Pepsi product, is the colossus that looks great in the sports drinks industry. Beverage Digest values ​​it alone in the domestic market for $ 9.2 billion, according to information shared by Stanford.

Gatorade is the stuff that is poured over the heads of winning coaches. The logo is on towels. Players drink it during postgame news conferences. Those green squeeze bottles with the orange tops are ubiquitous, everywhere to see, from youth sport to the Olympic Games.

There are a million species of Gatorade. You could find games for training, drinks in the game that are used for hydration, after recovery, low-calorie juice, sugar zero, big bottles, small bottles, powder to make coolers – you name it. According to Beverage Digest, it has a share of 70 percent in the sports drink market.

Powerade, a Coca-Cola product, takes up another 20 percent.

That means the task for BodyArmor, with about a 5 percent market share, is monumental. Hence the need for Bryant.

Mike Repole, one of the founders of the company, follows the same strategy that he used when he ran Vitamin Water – find a term with which you can pair your drink (for Vitamin Water it was rapper 50 Cent) and heavy on the market how you are different than Gatorade, Stanford said.

BodyArmor, founded in 2011, invoices itself as a natural sports drink. The first three ingredients on the label are filtered water, cane sugar and coconut water concentration. It is the premium option of the market, Stanford said.

As such, BodyArmor costs more. A 12-pack of 16-ounce bottles costs $ 28.78 at, excluding shipping costs. A 12-pack of 20-ounce Gatorade costs $ 9.05. An eight pack of 20-ounce Powerade costs $ 3.98.

(Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of, owns The Washington Post.)

That's why BodyArmor's new collaboration with Coca-Cola is so great a deal for the sports drinks industry. Not only does it fold into Coke's distribution network, it also enables Coke to market Gatorade; Powerade is the advantageous option, BodyArmor is the expensive one.

In theory Stanford said, if BodyArmor is able to continue to grow and gain market share, it can be big enough to force Gatorade to make changes to its product. Gatorade, for example, has for years opposed the development of a low-calorie drink. Then came Powerade Zero in 2007 and proved so popular that Gatorade had to respond, he said, and developed the non-sugar, low-calorie Gatorade Zero.

And that, Stanford said, would be a sure sign of success for Coca-Cola and BodyArmor. It will take years to dethrone Gatorade as the sports drink of pop culture, but to have the power of celebrities.

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