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With Coke acquisition in the balance, Bodyarmor attacks with $25m summer campaign

Bodyarmor kicks off a full court press tonight

Coca-Cola has until the end of the year to decide whether it will complete its purchase of Bodyarmor. In the meantime, the surging brand is looking to guzzle more share within the suddenly competitive sports drink category. To do so, it is launching its largest ever ad campaign with eight top athletes including NBA stars James Harden and Trae Young.

After 56 years, PepsiCo’s Gatorade finally has a formidable foe and Coca-Cola has taken notice. Bodyarmor’s growth has been hard to miss. It’s now a billion-dollar brand with aggressive, and achievable, growth goals for the year. Coke, which already has a minority interest in the brand, has until the end of 2021 to decide whether to complete its purchase.

Bodyarmor is looking to make that decision easier by driving awareness and sales via its largest ever campaign called ‘One more’, debuting during tonight’s NFL Draft. “It focuses on the hard work, the drive, the passion and the determination that really goes into being ultra-successful, whether it is in sport or in life,” says Bodyarmor founder and chief executive Mike Repole.

The ad features an all-star team of eight athlete partners and investors including James Harden, Naomi Osaka, Mookie Betts, Sabrina Ionescu, Baker Mayfield, Trae Young, Christian McCaffrey and Carlos Vela. The $25m campaign will include TV, radio, out-of-home, digital, social and point-of-sale. Its tagline: ‘more than a sports drink.’

This big push looks to build off a successful 2020 when, despite obvious challenges, Bodyarmor grew its dollar sales at retail 41%, per Beverage Digest. At retail, it finished the year with a 12.9 dollar share. Gatorade owns 69.9% of the category. Coca-Cola-owned Powerade slipped 2 percentage points to a 15.3 share.

The brand has looked to its innovation pipeline to spur further growth. It kicked off the year with Bodyarmor Edge in February. It contains 1,000mg of electrolytes, plus 100mg of natural caffeine. Repole predicts it will bring in $100m in revenue in its first year. It already has a success on its hands in its low-calorie, no sugar Bodyarmor Lyte.

Overall, “Bodyarmor has done a tremendous job securing marquee name sports talent to market the brand. They’ve already moved the needle,” says Duane Stanford, editor of Beverage Digest. “They’ve taken share in what was a two-horse race [with Powerade].”

Competition in the sports drink category gets fierce

Bodyarmor’s investor athletes are looking to win big too. NBA star Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks told The Drum that he appreciates being a part of a challenger brand. “It’s great to be a part of two growing brands [Bodyarmor and Bodyarmor Edge] that are soon to be at the top ... The brand overall, it really represents me. Just looking at the people that they’ve signed and partnered with already – it’s exciting and it’s really just a big family for me.”

NBA great Kobe Bryant was one of the first investors and believers in the brand. This played was a big factor in Young’s decision to sign on with the team. “Being a part of something that Kobe endorsed so heavily – especially since one of our last conversations was about Bodyarmor – that alone makes Bodyarmor even more important, and special, to me.”

Repole has coached a winning team of athlete investors before. A bevy of up-and-coming athletes helped propel Vitaminwater to a $4.1bn payday from Coca-Cola.

Bodyarmor’s rise has brought lots of new players into the arena and reignited an old one. Gatorade has responded by throwing its heft behind Bolt 24 (which includes caffeine) and Gatorade Zero. It also responded by bringing back an old favorite ad with Michael Jordan and hiring Nike marketer Kalen Thornton to be its new chief marketer.

“Gatorade is trying to come up with some new innovation,” says Repole. “At least they’ve woken up and they’re giving an effort. When we got into the category it was a $5bn category. It’s now $7.5bn and growing 10%. It’s just going to explode. Pepsi should thank me. It’s tough enough to grow one brand, I’m growing two. They should send a thank–you note.”

At the same time, new brands are looking to play, including GOAT Fuel which is backed by NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice. Biosteel has also been actively recruiting athlete partners like NFL great Pat Mahomes and Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash. It is also the official drink of the Nets and a handful of other NBA teams. Biosteel is owned by Canopy Partners, which is best known for its interest in the fledgling US cannabis market.

“New players are emboldened by what Bodyarmor has done. Sports drinks in general are growing,” says Stanford. “The tent is getting bigger.”

Repole welcomes the competition. “I’m all about entrepreneurs. The sports drink category was outdated and stagnant. Why should our kids be drinking the same product that was invented in 1965, that we were drinking in the eighties? It doesn’t make sense to me.

“The new up-and-comers are a great thing because the category is growing. The ocean is getting bigger. Now we’re going to get a bigger piece of the ocean. As people get vaccinated and cities and states open up, it is going to be a huge summer.”

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