ZICO Adds Kevin Garnett as Shareholder and Spokesman

Kevin Garnett is no longer a “Knight of G.” Instead, call him a Knight of Z. ZICO, that is.

The ultra-intense power forward for the Boston Celtics has agreed to terms that will make him a shareholder and paid spokesman for the coconut water brand, which is also partially owned by the Coca-Cola Co.’s Venturing & Emerging Brands unit (VEB).

Garnett left Gatorade in December and approached ZICO as part of negotiations, according to founder and CEO Mark Rampolla. His former URL on the Gatorade web site pulls up an error message. The seven-footer was introduced to the natural electrolyte source after he began rehabilitating from an injury with a holistically-inclined physical therapist, Rampolla said.

For ZICO, the endorsement by Garnett puts the product in the hand of a mainstream athlete and may provide some celebrity firepower to counter the “q rating” of its chief rival, Vita Coco, which has Madonna as a shareholder, among others. It is also part of a strong overall move toward middle America by ZICO, a brand that once counted yoga studios as its highest-profile retail channel. Lately, the brand has gone into several mainstream channels, including Target and Rite Aid, and it is getting almost all of its growth via a from-concentrate, PET plastic bottle. The brand has also begun a SKU-proliferation that is likely to garner more shelf space. In addition to tropical fruits, it recently introduced a chocolate version.

Still, there is some internal trepidation concerning the move. ZICO – and other coconut waters – are still finding their way in terms of consumer education. Adding a mainstream athlete, particularly one as closely identified with his previous brand as Garnett, may cause the brand to be prematurely defined.

It will be up to Rampolla to keep the brand on the ball, rather than run over by it.