It’s official—PepsiCo has poached LeBron James from Coca-Cola Co.
The basketball megastar will be the face of the new Mtn Dew Rise Energy drink as part of a larger endorsement deal that will include other brands across PepsiCo’s food and beverage lineup, as well as social justice endeavors, the company confirmed today.
Coca-Cola Co. said in January that it had parted ways with James, ending a relationship that began in 2003 when he was 18-years-old. Pepsi had declined to comment on reports that it landed the star, until today, when it outlined the relationship. The company did not disclose financial terms of the multiyear deal, but James is known to command top dollar. He ranks No. 3 on the list of the “world’s 50 most marketable athletes” compiled late last year by Nielsen, trailing only international soccer stars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Pepsi is inking James as it seeks a bigger slice of the energy drink market, which grew 7% by dollar sales in 2020, according to Beverage Digest. Monster and Red Bull continue to dominate, with 33% and 24% share by volume respectively, according to Beverage Digest. But Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo have spent more money on marketing and product development in recent years in hopes of gaining ground. Coca-Cola introduced Coke Energy last year—with roughly three times the caffeine of regular Coke—and backed it with a Super Bowl ad.
For PepsiCo, Mtn Dew Rise is “a big bet for them and with a big bet you want a big personality to help sell that to consumers—and that is what they are doing with LeBron,” says Beverage Digest Editor and Publisher Duane Stanford.
Rise is positioned as a morning drink. It has 180 mg of caffeine, vitamins A and C, as well as fruit juice and Citicoline, a dietary supplement that has been used to improve brain function. Flavors include Pomegranate Blue Burst, Orange Breeze, Strawberry Melon Spark, Tropical Sunrise, Berry Blitz and Peach Mango Dawn.