LeBron James is preparing to join PepsiCo after a long-standing sponsorship with Coca-Cola, sources told Front Office Sports.
James would join a growing team of NBA and WNBA stars pitching the rebranded “MTN DEW”: Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans; Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers; Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets; and A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces.
According to sources, James will become the face of Mountain Dew’s upcoming “Rise Energy” line after nearly 18 years as an endorser for Coca-Cola’s Sprite and Powerade brands.
The 36-year old James could also pitch Pepsi’s flagship cola brand, said sources.
The pending deal may also include integration with Blaze Pizza, which currently offers Coca-Cola products at its more than 300 locations. James owns an approximate 10% stake of the chain.
Representatives for PepsiCo declined to comment. A spokesperson for James also declined to comment.
An 18-year-old James first signed with Coca-Cola in 2003 as a No. 1 draft pick. The four-time MVP has since appeared regularly in Sprite and Powerade commercials. In 2014 the beverage giant gave him his own signature drink, “Sprite 6 Mix by LeBron James.”
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola told Front Office Sports that his deal with the Atlanta-based soda giant expired in September.
“LeBron’s contract came up at a time when both he and The Coca-Cola Company were actively reviewing all of its resources to make sure it was investing in places that ensured long-term growth,” Coca-Cola said. “After many discussions with Lebron and his team, we mutually agreed to part ways.”
PepsiCo’s beverage brands and the NBA have become increasingly entwined.
In 2015, PepsiCo replaced Coca-Cola as the official food and beverage partner of the NBA and WNBA. The blockbuster deal ended Coke’s 28-year partnership with the NBA.
Rather than playing up its eponymous cola, PepsiCo has focused its NBA advertising and activations on citrus-flavored Mountain Dew.
The 2020 All-Star Game’s 3-Point Contest introduced the “DEW Zone” — two attempts from six feet behind the arc, worth three points each. For the third straight year, Mountain Dew also offered fans a branded “Courtside Studio,” with player appearances, music and fashion.
Parent PepsiCo, meanwhile, expanded into caffeinated beverages, buying Rockstar energy drinks for $3.85 billion last March.
James is one of the world’s most popular and successful endorsers, following the path blazed by the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods.
He signed a lifetime deal with Nike in 2015 that could be worth as much as $1 billion over its duration. He’s been one of the brand’s key ambassadors since he entered the league with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s estimated that James will eclipse $1 billion in career earnings before he retires from the NBA; his endorsements, production companies and other sources account for more than half of that figure.
In December, James signed a two-year extension with the Lakers that will push his career NBA earnings past $420 million by the conclusion of the 2022-23 season.