Gatorade: We Axed Tiger Line Before Scandal Broke

Overexcited Media Pounces on Weeks-Old News

By Published on .

When it comes to Tiger, even non-news is news these days. Media outlets exploded this afternoon with word that Gatorade would be dropping the Tiger Focus line of beverages. Some even portrayed the company as being the first of Tiger Woods corporate sponsors to take a stand in response to his bad behavior. Only problem is that the company had been planning to discontinue the line well before the golf phenom's car crash and extramarital affairs became tabloid fodder.

"As reported last month, we decided several months ago to discontinue Gatorade Tiger Focus, along with some other products to make room for our planned series of innovative products in 2010," the company said in a statement.

Now, we're all for being skeptical, especially when it comes to massive companies with products to shill and reputations to protect. But as the company points out, this is old news. Beverage Digest published a report noting the line would be dropped on Nov. 25, two days before Tiger Woods crashed his Cadillac Escalade. John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, says he reported the story the week of Nov. 9, well before the National Enquirer ran with its account of Mr. Woods' alleged affair.

And the discontinuation of the line should come as no surprise, given that volume was down 34% in the first 10 months of this year, according to Beverage Digest figures. The line also went through a reformulation, cutting the calories, earlier this year, though that doesn't seem to have helped sales.

"The line extension has not been doing that well. It was an interesting attempt, but it didn't work out that well," Mr. Sicher said. "Gatorade has a huge number of new products they're introducing next year and will be dropping some [products] to make room for the new products in coolers and on shelves."

Gatorade Tiger, introduced in March 2008, was touted as a means to promote mental focus and included 25% more electrolytes than Gatorade Thirst Quencher. A comprehensive marketing campaign behind the launch included a TV spot that featured Mr. Woods in an astronaut suit. Earlier this year the line was reformulated as Tiger Focus, cutting the calories to half what is in Thirst Quencher.

Mr. Sicher's report also included a statement from an unnamed PepsiCo executive saying that the company plans to utilize Mr. Woods "more broadly" across its line in 2010. Surely, the media fracas around the line discontinuation will give the brand valuable feedback on how it should use the star moving forward. If Mr. Woods fails to appear in Gatorade marketing in the coming year, as the company has indicated he will, then, that will be news.

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