Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Ford, celebrates in the Ruoff Mortgage victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway on August 28, 2021 in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Jared C. Tilton | Getty Images
Coca-Cola announced Monday it has bought full control of sports drink maker Bodyarmor for $5.6 billion, making it the company’s largest brand acquisition to date.
The beverage giant bought a 15% stake in Bodyarmor in 2018, becoming its second-largest shareholder. At the time, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was its third-largest shareholder after investing in Bodyarmor in 2013, just two years after its founding. The estate of the late NBA star will receive roughly $400 million from the sale, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The deal for the remaining 85% of Bodyarmor isn’t entirely unexpected. Coke first said in February that it intended to buy a controlling interest in Bodyarmor later this year in a pre-acquisition filing with the Federal Trade Commission.
Owning Bodyarmor helps Coke gain market share in the sports drink category, although PepsiCo’s Gatorade is far and away the market leader with roughly 70% market share. By touting itself as a healthier sports drink, Bodyarmor has surpassed Coke’s Powerade to become the second-largest player in the category. According to Coke, the sports drink brand’s retail sales this year are expected to be more than $1.4 billion, up about 50% this year.
As part of the deal, Bodyarmor co-founder Mike Repole will collaborate on the company’s still beverages portfolio. Repole also founded Vitaminwater, Smartwater and Energy Brands, all of which are now owned by Coke. Repole and BodyArmor President Brent Hastie will also stick around to help Bodyarmor in its quest to overtake Gatorade.
“After I spoke to [Chairman and CEO James Quincey], I asked him if I could be chairman of the board. I think he muted me after that,” Repole told CNBC’s Sara Eisen on “Squawk on the Street” on Monday. “But I wasn’t afraid to ask, so I’m going to try my best to get on the board.”
Repole said that the plan to have him act as a consultant for other parts of its portfolio is a sign that Coke wants to do things differently. He’ll be sharing ideas on how to upgrade Coke’s marketing, packaging and innovation.
Consumer Edge Research analyst Brett Cooper wrote in a note published Monday that it will be difficult to quantify Repole’s involvement with Coke, but it seems more likely to be positive rather than negative, given his past successes.
Ahead of the deal’s confirmation, Credit Suisse analyst Kaumil Gajrawala wrote in a note Friday that he expects the acquisition will be positive for Coke, citing Body Armor’s brand equity and the potential for Coke to distribute its sports drinks globally, like it did for Monster.
Coke has been overhauling its own portfolio since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, killing off drinks that haven’t been selling well. That includes its short-lived Coca-Cola Plus Energy drink in North America this spring. At the same time, under Quincey, the company has been striving to offer a wider array of beverages.
The Bodyarmor deal is Coke’s largest brand acquisition, topping its purchase of Costa Coffee in 2018 for $5.1 billion.
Shares of Coke have risen 2% this year, giving it a market value of $242 billion. The stock was down less than 1% in morning trading.