Coca-Cola buys stake in sports drink backed by Kobe Bryant

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Credit: bodyarmor via youtube

Coca-Cola Co. agreed to buy a minority stake in Bodyarmor, a sports-drink maker whose backers include former basketball star Kobe Bryant, in a further move to diversify beyond sugary, fizzy beverages.

Coke will become the second-largest shareholder in closely held Bodyarmor after co-founder and Chairman Mike Repole, according to a statement Tuesday. Financial terms of the deal, which could allow the soft-drink giant to eventually take control of Whitestone, New York-based Bodyarmor, were not disclosed.

Bryant has taken a leading role creating Bodyarmor ads, including a campaign that takes direct aim at PepsiCo-owned Gatorade. He tweeted his approval of the Coke deal on Tuesday morning.

Bodyarmor, whose drinks are infused with coconut water, vitamins and potassium, "will prove to be a strong offering to our system alongside our already powerful hydration portfolio," Coca-Cola North America President Jim Dinkins said in the statement.

The investment comes at a time of change for the soft-drink business amid a general decline in consumption. PepsiCo Inc. Chief Executive Officer Indra Nooyi will step down in October after 12 years at the helm, as the company's North American beverage unit stagnates.

Coke last month posted sales and profit that beat analysts' estimates, with a rebranding of Diet Coke and a boost for Coca-Cola Zero Sugar lifting results. CEO James Quincey has pushed Coke to grow beyond its namesake brand to become a "total beverage company."

The latest investment will give Bodyarmor access to Coke's extensive bottling system. Bryant became a shareholder in the sports-drink maker in 2013. He retired from basketball in 2016 after a 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bloomberg News with contribution from Ad Age

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