Zambezi Co-Founder Helps Launch Debut Campaign for Kobe Bryant’s BODYARMOR

By Patrick Coffee 

A couple of years ago, we posted on ECD and co-founder Brian Ford leaving Zambezi after more than 8 years to go his own way.

In case you wondered what he’s been up to, now you know: he’s been freelancing on a bunch of projects, one of which involves some guy named Kobe … you know, the one who helped launch Zambezi in 2006 and left that venture around the same time as Ford. (The agency’s first project was his own website.)

Bryant’s first investment after he retired was sports drink BODYARMOR. He dropped “millions” on the brand, became its #3 shareholder, and ultimately acted as creative director on its first broadcast campaign, which debuts tonight during the playoffs on TNT.


You may have caught the AdAge writeup yesterday. Here’s the spot.

For context, Ford and Bryant have worked together before when he was a copywriter at Wieden+Kennedy and Bryant was a spokesperson for Nike.

You remember “Love Me or Hate Me,” which was in keeping with this spot’s “Kill or Be Killed” theme.

Not only did Bryant direct the ad, he also did the voiceover, picked the composer and came up with the concept behind the tagline. And the athletes featured—Dustin Johnson, Mike Trout, James Harden, Andrew Luck, Anthony Rizzo, Dez Bryant, Richard Sherman, Skylar Diggins and Kristaps Porzingis—are all fellow BODYARMOR investors.

Beyond the ad itself, the campaign will include social and individual clips for each of the athletes. Here’s James Harden discussing hydration.

“I’m grateful to work with BODYARMOR and collaborate with Kobe again,” Ford said today. “BODYARMOR has a strong roster of athlete partners who are all obsessed with their training, and we wanted to capture that in a natural way.”

The big question is whether BODYARMOR can compete with Gatorade. One of its co-founders also launched Vitamin Water, which was acquired by Coca-Cola for several billion dollars before 50 Cent became its number one fanboy.

Does TBWA L.A. need to worry about this new upstart upsetting their biggest client? We have no idea, of course. From a 2014 Grantland review of the beverages: “Gatorade sells a story as well as its product, and the story is its greatest asset.”

Kobe himself is BODYARMOR’s story now.