Kobe Bryant recalls making first business investment -“ I feel like a rookie all over again”

Kobe Bryant was always good in preparation. That included preparing for his life after the NBA. Two years before he officially retired, Bryant formed Kobe Inc., a company designed to create new businesses and invest in others.

The company's first transaction was a seven-figure investment in upstart sports drink company BODYARMOR which Glaceau Vitaminwater founder Mike Repole and Fuze Beverage creator Lance Collins established.

In a statement to CNBC, Kobe talked about his first venture into business.

"Business has always been very interesting to me, and it's exciting to start a new journey where I feel like I'm a rookie all over again," said Bryant. "The sports drink industry is something I'm very familiar with and it's right in the wheelhouse with what I do as a basketball player."

Kobe did not do any commercials for BODYARMOR

When Kobe invested in BODYARMOR, he no longer had the appetite to be a mere endorser because of his popularity. That's the reason why he never did a commercial for the product. Instead, Bryant took a board seat and got personally involved in all facets of the product, from its look to marketing.

"I want to be a part of something, and if you want to be a true entrepreneur, you have to put skin in the game," Bryant said. "At this stage in my life, I don't have the interest in taking on any more endorsements."

Bryant became active in BODYARMOR. He came up with an ad campaign with the famous tagline: "Thank you Gatorade, we'll take it from here."

In 2018, Kobe represented BODYARMOR during the annual trade show for the National Association of Convenience Stores to help personally push the product to retail chains. Even Repole admitted that he sought Kobe's advice on business decisions.

BODYARMOR sale to Coca Cola

BODYARMOR was lagging third behind Gatorade and Powerade when Kobe invested $6 million in 2014 with a mere $10 million in sales. The product had a nice concept - a coconut water beverage so athletes could enjoy more potassium and less sodium. Still, it could not compete with Gatorade and Powerade.

Three years into the Kobe era, BODYARMOR hit $235 million in sales in 2017 while winning 3% of the U.S. market. The following year, it made $425 million in retail sales while owning a 9% share of the market. Also, in 2018, Coca-Cola acquired 15% of BODYARMOR. That was a sign of good things to come.

In 2021, Coca-Cola acquired the remaining 85% share of the company for a whopping $5.6 billion. When it was sold, BODYARMOR had risen as the No.2 sports drink in the market with over a billion dollars in sales. Unfortunately, the Black Mamba was no longer on this earth when BODYARMOR cashed in. But when the deal happened, Kobe Bryant's estate got a reported $400 million from the sale of BODYARMOR. That's a staggering 666.67% increase from the $6 million Kobe originally invested in 2014. 

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