James Harden’s admiration for Kobe Bryant is well documented. The Brooklyn Nets star has referred to the late, great Bryant as “a big brother to me” and someone “whom I grew up watching and idolizing”.
The two NBA stars struck up a friendship as their respective careers progressed and intersected, while also extending their business relationship off the court.
Nearly two years after the helicopter crash that tragically cut short the lives of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others, the legacy of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee continues. to live. Today, Harden and Art of Sport, the athlete-focused body care brand co-founded by Bryant, pay tribute to the five-time NBA champion with the release of Defy, Harden’s first personal fragrance and the company’s first since Bryant’s Victory in 2019.
“Bean was larger than life,” Harden says. “He defied the game, he defied physics, he defied death and lives for millions of people around the world. I named him ‘Defy’ because of what he embodied, what he was preaching and what it took me to push my limits for as long as I did.
“He was my childhood idol and inspired me to play basketball, so to be part of a second adventure with him and carrying the legacy of the next signature fragrance is an honor.”
Inspired by his own personal journey while honoring his idol, Harden worked with Art of Sport throughout 2021 to create the fragrance name, purple packaging and specific fragrance notes for the line, which includes a deodorant, a body spray, antiperspirant, bar soap, body wash, and shampoo and conditioner available through Amazon and later at Target nationwide.
Featuring a musky, deep sandalwood scent, Defy’s release follows Art of Sport’s retail expansion to more than 25,000 stores across the United States, including Target, CVS, Walgreens , HEB, Meijer and Kroger as it continues to carve out a share of the global skincare market. market, which is expected reach $145.8 billion by 2028.
“Brands like Old Spice, Gillette, Degree or Ax are multi-billion dollar brands. We believe the runway for this brand is limitless,” says Matthias Metternich, CEO and Co-Founder of Art of Sport. “What’s cool about our brand, which is very different from other brands, is that sport is an international language. As a result, we have this lingua franca built into our brand DNA that allows us to speak to consumers whether they are in Brazil, China, Russia or Germany.
“Although we are in more than 20,000 points of sale, we consider this first phase as the beginning of the brand. Our goal is to ensure the brand has the kind of resonance with our core consumers in the same way the Nikes of this world have built an iconic, purpose-driven brand while redefining the apparel category. Can we redefine skincare through this lens? Can we usher in a new language, a new consideration for skincare that transcends just products and formulas from brands that haven’t innovated in decades? I believe we can.
Despite rapid growth in recent years amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Metternich said Art of Sport’s business model continues to be deliberate and slow while building a brand in a highly competitive space based on the authenticity, quality and fidelity.
Together with athletes such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Ryan Sheckler, Ken Roczen and Harden, Art of Sport raised $6 million in its Series A announced in September 2020, led by CircleUp Growth Partners and including Mark Cuban, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Bam Ventures and Darco Capital. With aspirations to be the Nike of skincare, Metternich confirmed that Art of Sport is not looking to raise capital at this time, but expects “we can do another fundraiser, maybe -be at the end of 2022”.
“It’s a category that takes time,” he says. “Someone has to test the product and figure out if it’s for them, and once they’ve tried it one, two or three times, at that point they decide to commit to that brand for long. There are some industries where you can waste all your money trying to grow too fast – this is not one of them. You have to be very deliberate and slow and work with your business partners to build the brand in an authentic way. I think it speaks to our existing investor base, but also to the athletes that everyone is very long term in their outlook.
Harden said he thinks Art of Sport has the potential to grow and succeed like another consumer good he and Bryant bet on: BodyArmor. The Best Sports Drink For You, founded in 2011, was acquired by Coca-Cola for $5.6 billion in November, which would have brought Bryant’s estate $400 million.
“We’ve made BodyArmor one of the biggest new sports drinks in the world by committing to the athlete, making drinks that are nutritionally better and scientifically proven to keep you hydrated,” says Harden. “We spent a lot of time creating flavors that tasted great and introduced our products to sporting communities across the country, on the sidelines, in locker rooms, wherever athletes trained and played.
“Art of Sport has a similar playbook, in such an important industry, taking on former players who lack that authenticity, that science, that focus and that commitment. … I see Art of Sport being as big as BodyArmor one day – redefining the way customers should think about what they put on their skin every day and becoming a global and iconic brand for the next generation looking to pursue their goals in life and realize their full potential .”