Herbalife International Inc. is banking on biking to better its brand image.


The Inglewood-based nutritional products company has signed a multi-year agreement with the Anschutz Entertainment Group to sponsor the Amgen Tour of California, a cycling race that will debut in February. Herbalife will be the exclusive nutrition sponsor of the event, which is owned and operated by AEG.


Herbalife recently has been aggressively pursuing sponsorship deals with sporting events. Last year, the company started its relationship with AEG, which runs the Staples Center and the Home Depot Center. Herbalife became the official nutrition sponsor of the Home Depot Center along with other AEG events and initiatives.


Also last year, Herbalife announced it entered into a four-year, multi-million dollar sponsorship of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour. The company sponsors individual volleyball athletes, including 2004 Olympic bronze medalist Elaine Youngs.


The moves are part of the Herbalife's efforts to link the healthy life with its products, including Shapeworks weight management program, Liftoff energy drink, and NouriFusion skin care.


"The Tour of California is another of our initiatives to associate the Herbalife brand with health, fitness and community service," said Greg Probert, Herbalife's president and chief operating officer, in a statement.


Under the direction of Michael Johnson, who became its chief executive in 2003, Herbalife has been trying to polish its image, which was tarnished by reports of questionable business practices in recent years. Johnson knows a bit about branding after spending 17 years at Walt Disney Co. prior to taking charge of Herbalife.

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