Gatorade Brings Propel Back Into the Family for a Relaunch

Enhanced Water to Focus on 'Routine Exercisers,' Embrace Sampling

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Propel is going home again.

The brand helped to create the enhanced water category when it launched in 2002 as part of the Gatorade portfolio. But as the category grew to include powerhouses like Vitaminwater and SoBe Lifewater, PepsiCo pushed Propel into more of a lifestyle space and away from its athletic roots. In 2011, Cindy Crawford starred in a campaign, along with her husband and two kids.

Now, Propel is returning to the Gatorade portfolio, getting a package refresh and being pitched as a workout water for regular exercisers. The brand is working with Fleishman Hillard for PR, while Fathom is leading creative and social efforts.

"Their day just isn't complete if they don't get their workout in -- that's the mindset and behavior that we're targeting," said Morgan Flatley, VP-marketing for Gatorade and Propel. "It's very different from where it was. We're harkening back to where [the brand was] when it launched."

Propel will shift its focus to "routine exercisers" but still skew slightly older than Gatorade's target, focusing on males and females aged 25 and older. Previously, the brand was going after Generation X and Boomers, in a bid to distinguish itself from youth-oriented brands like Vitaminwater and SoBe.

Within the Gatorade portfolio, Propel will be the only product with zero calories -- though it will drop the "zero" from its name and packaging. Packaging will also reinforce that Propel is "from the makers of Gatorade." Execs are hoping that distinction, along with a strong point of view will help drive distribution and get key retailers excited about the brand again.

Morgan Flatley
Morgan Flatley

Propel controls 13% of the enhanced-water market, according to Beverage Digest. Coca-Cola's Smartwater and Vitaminwater are the leaders in the category. Still, Ms. Flatley says Propel's biggest competitors will be bottled and tap water.

A new campaign is focused on real people, who appear in ads doing pull ups, running on a treadmill and jumping onto a box. Propel will also rev up its sampling efforts, particularly at shorter distance events, like 5Ks. Ms. Flatley declined to comment on marketing spend. Measured media spending in the last few years has been varied, ranging from $40 million in 2008 to $330,000 in 2010, according to Kantar Media. Last year the brand spent $11.5 million.

"We've talked to a lot of exercisers. There's a latent brand equity and love within that community. Part of it is just reminding them that Propel is there for them," Ms. Flatley said. "With the heritage of Gatorade and the sharp positioning, we feel there is tremendous opportunity."

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