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BodyArmor ads, written and directed by Kobe Bryant, take aim at Gatorade

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Is Kobe's BodyArmor a threat to Gatorade? (1:38)

Darren Rovell weighs in on Kobe Bryant co-directing ads for his BodyArmor sports drink which directly target Gatorade. (1:38)

Kobe Bryant and sports drink BodyArmor might be David, but they are taking direct aim at Goliath.

In ads written and co-directed by Bryant that will debut Wednesday, the sports drink, which did $235 million in retail sales in 2017 and projects to do $400 million this year, has four of its endorsers doing things of the past. The voice-over asks if they would still do those things today, and they all answer no.

The commercials end with the tag line: "Thanks Gatorade. We'll take it from here."

The ads feature Kristaps Porzingis writing a letter to his parents to be delivered by carrier pigeon, Skylar Diggins-Smith leading a step aerobics class, James Harden entering the arena like a soldier from the renaissance era and Mike Trout using a pulsating ab exerciser from the 1970s.

"At the end of the day, we've seen so many things in sports evolve -- from training to equipment to uniforms," said BodyArmor founder and CEO Mike Repole, who sold Glacéau, maker of VitaminWater and SmartWater, to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. "How does it make sense to have the same exact sports drink we had 50 years ago? Athletes are more sophisticated than they have ever been. They train year-round, they have chefs and they read labels."

Bryant is the third-largest investor in the brand.

"When I teamed up with Kobe, I thought I was getting an elite basketball player with great vision," Repole said. "I wound up with an Oscar winner who has his fingerprints all over our creative that we deeply benefited from. He invested his money to be part of the brand versus an endorsement deal. He was in when we had 20 million in sales, so consider him a co-founder."

Repole said Bryant hasn't been afraid to assert himself on the creative side.

"He has done an amazing job," Repole said. "I had one idea and he squashed it in two seconds. I said to myself, 'OK, I'll go back to running the company.'"

Bryant is currently the writer, producer and host of "Detail," a basketball analysis show on ESPN+.

When Repole founded BodyArmor six years ago, he was looking at a market that was solely made up of Gatorade and Powerade domination. Repole now says his brand has had a 5 percent share of the $6.5 billion U.S. sports drink business for the past three months. He thinks there's another $3.5 billion that currently isn't being measured in places like the club stores.

The most technical of the four shoots was for the Porzingis ad. A pigeon master brought in 30 trained pigeons to an old factory in Brooklyn.

"It took me like 15 takes to catch the pigeon," Porzingis said.

To nail the step aerobics routine famous in the late 1980s, Diggins-Smith said she asked for advice from her mother.

"My mom did step aerobics and she was a lot more graceful than me," Diggins-Smith said. "I also got into character. The headband turned me into Jessie Spano [from "Saved By The Bell"] and we pumped in Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson."

Diggins-Smith, who joined BodyArmor nearly three years ago, said the size of the campaign, which is the brand's biggest ad push in its history, makes her proud.

"When I started with them, people would ask me where they could find it," she said. "Things have changed."

BodyArmor's direct shot at Gatorade isn't a surprise; the two have tangled before.

Last May, Gatorade made the National Advertising Division, the investigative unit of the industry's self-regulation system, aware of a BodyArmor ad which told consumers to ditch artificially colored and sweetened sports drinks. Gatorade officials argued that the ads "falsely denigrated Gatorade."

While the NAD supported claims that BodyArmor did in fact have no artificial colors or sweeteners, BodyArmor voluntarily said it would discontinue ads that suggested to "upgrade to a natural sports drink," even though the ad campaign had run its course anyway. It also agreed to delete links on social media which said "Gatorade is garbageade" and images of athletes dumping out bottles of the competitor's product.

When reached, a Gatorade spokesman said consumers can refer to their Twitter feed to see what the brand has next. On the top of the feed is spokesman Bryce Harper drinking a Gatorade with the words "Studied. Tested. Proven. For the world's best athletes, nothing beats Gatorade."