LeBron James was an 18-year-old phenom when he signed his deal with Coke and began working with its Sprite brand. During his 17 years with the company, he helped market Sprite and Powerade by appearing in many commercials and but last September, he mutually agreed to part ways with Coca-Cola.
Now PepsiCo is banking on his media profile and star power to drive sales of its energy drinks business. The four-time NBA champion is considered to be one of the most marketable athletes in the world. For Pepsi, getting King James on board is a big win, according to marketing executives. “He’s iconic,” said Bob Dorfman, a creative director at Baker Street Advertising. “He will definitely help move product and on the PR side, it looks kind of cool that they have stolen him from Coke.”
Pepsi is not new to the category. It acquired Rockstar Energy for $3.85 billion in March 2020, and early results have been positive. “Energy is a major priority right now for PepsiCo, and they have basically pulled out all the stops by signing LeBron,” said Stanford. “It gives you an indication of just how serious they are about energy, but also the extent to which they think LeBron can really help them.”
Pepsi would not comment on the value of its deal. It said James is the first athlete to launch an entirely new brand, and the partnership uses a new model to support James beyond being just an athlete. Pepsi will work with him on issues related to education, social justice and initiatives in underserved communities.