Battling back from a dismal 2009, Gatorade is putting on its game face and launching a new advertising campaign seeking to cast itself as more than a sports drink.
Starting Wednesday, the Chicago-based unit of PepsiCo Inc. will be promoting in commercials its “G Series,” a trio of products it introduced earlier this year that targets student athletes looking for a drink before, during and after a workout or athletic event.
“It’s a more holistic view,” said Morgan Flatley, director of consumer engagement at Gatorade. “In our mind there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity for the types of product we can deliver in the future for before, during and after activities,” Flatley added, hinting at Gatorade’s plans to introduce products beyond beverages next year.
In April, Gatorade plans to move beyond the high school-age athlete to 18- to 24-year-old exercisers with “G Series Fit,” another trio of products designed for consumers involved in solo activities like yoga or running. The new line will include energy bar bites, as well as a low-calorie drink and a fruit-based protein drink.
PepsiCo’s sports drink sales were hit by the recession, as consumers limited their spending and Gatorade refocused on competetive athletes instead of aspirational drinkers it had amassed over the previous two decades. Last year, Gatorade volumes declined 16 percent, according to non-alcoholic beverage industry newsletter Beverage Digest. The company’s sports drink market share also took a hit when it discontinued several products, including Gatorade Tiger Focus in November 2009, Beverage Digest publisher John Sicher said.
“It became a brand which was cool to walk up and down the street with,” Sicher said. “And in 2009 it lost some of that volume.”
In April, Gatorade introduced the “G Series,” which helped to boost PepsiCo’s growth in the second quarter. In 2010, Gatorade sales volumes are up 15 percent, and Gatorade has about 71 percent of the $6.7 billion sports-drink category, Beverage Digest said.
Gatorade “is basically taking the brand back to its core, which is a hydration beverage for athletes, and that has begun to resonate, which is why base Gatorade is back to double-digit growth,” Sicher said.
As the original sports drink, Gatorade boasts a commanding market share, but it has dwindled over the past decade as the segment has expanded and competition has become fierce. Coca-Cola’s Powerade is also popular with athletes, and its Vitamin Water is seen as a lower-cost alternative, particularly for non-athletes. Sports drinks are designed to help with rehydration and typically boast electrolytes and other nutrients.
Gatorade’s ads seek to elevate the “G Series” above its competitors’ products.
The commercials that begin airing Wednesday will feature New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard. A third commercial featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt is slated for January.
The company has said that Gatorade is working to focus on athletes, rather than couch potatoes who had been drinking it for the cool factor. The “G Series” is aimed at teenage athletes and seems to explain the benefits of each product.
In one of the new ads, the camera closes in on Tomlinson’s dirty, sweaty face after a rough game, as a voiceover explains how Gatorade Recover is helping his body prepare for the next one. Another ad depicts Howard on the bench during a basketball game, sipping Gatorade Perform to get a second wind, and then heading back in for a slam dunk. Bolt will push Gatorade Prime early next year.