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Kobe Inc. Takes On Gatorade

(Bob Donnan: USA TODAY Sports Images)

(Bob Donnan: USA TODAY Sports Images)

The few individuals who have watched a Los Angeles Lakers game this season have observed a noticeable absence of Kobe Bryant, who has spent all but six games on the disabled list.

While we can envision Kobe hurling the remote at the television in frustration at the team’s struggles, it has become apparent that he is spending at least some of his time preparing for life after basketball.

As part of those plans, the Philadelphia native last year founded “Kobe Inc.,” a company that strives to, in the all-star’s own words, “own and grow brands and ideas that challenge and redefine the sports industry while inspiring the world.”

In an Interview with ESPN’s Darren Rovell on Sunday, Bryant announced Kobe Inc.’s first investment: the sports drink BodyArmor. Bryant did not release his company’s exact investment, but referred to the contribution as “substantial.”

BodyArmor launched in 2011 and has had a good deal of success, generating $10 million of revenue over the past year. Since its inception, BodyArmor has doubled its sales every 12 months, carving out its space in the sports drink category as a low sodium, high electrolyte alternative.

Bryant discovered BodyArmor while rehabbing from his torn Achilles tendon WHEN?, calling the product “very disruptive,” and complaining that Gatorade and Powerade both had become “bland with no innovation.”

For its part, BodyArmor has chosen to recruit and market young superstars such as Buster Posey and James Harden as investors and pitchmen, as opposed to Gatorade, which relies on seasoned veterans such as Derek Jeter. Showing a good deal of savvy and unselfishness, Bryant has made clear that he will not appear in any BodyArmor marketing campaigns, acting solely as an investor as to not hurt the youthful vibe the drink has cultivated.

This first investment sets an interesting course for Bryant, choosing to back an upstart brand in direct competition with the current Goliaths in the sports drink industry, Gatorade and Powerade.

Athletes are known to be drawn to game-changing products, but most are not successful in those higher-risk endeavors. For example, Shaquille O’Neal’s “Shaq Soda” rarely sees the checkout counter at convenience stores despite the 4-time NBA champion’s highly public backing and national distribution.

Kobe Inc., however, seems to be more strategic and deliberate with its ventures than most athlete-backed companies. Over the last year, Bryant, the third-largest shareholder in the company behind co-founders Mike Repole and Lance Collins, spent time with his business partners doing due diligence before jumping headfirst into the BodyArmor investment.

Bryant is notorious for his relentless work ethic on the court, and while the court might be changing in a few years as he faces retirement, that relentless drive looks to carry over into potential success with Kobe Inc.

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