PepsiCo Pours More Money Behind Propel

New Marketing Touts Elevated Electrolytes

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PepsiCo is pouring more marketing money behind its Propel water brand after a new unflavored version helped boost sales last year.

Ads breaking this week plug the brand as "the only water with enough electrolytes to put back what you lose in sweat." That claim comes in the wake of a reformulation of the flavored versions that brings their electrolytes to the level found in PepsiCo-owned Gatorade. The unflavored version that launched last year also contains Gatorade-level electrolytes and is more overtly marketed as "electrolyte water," including in the new TV ad above.

PepsiCo returned Propel to the larger Gatorade portfolio in early 2014 after it was marketed as a standalone lifestyle brand for several years. The move back to its athletic Gatorade roots did not immediately pay off. Propel sales volume fell 6.6% in 2014, according to Beverage Digest. The trade publication has not published 2015 figures. But Propel is on an upswing according to the brand. Dollar sales grew 30% last year, with 40% of that growth coming from the new unflavored version and 60% coming from flavored varieties, according to the brand. "It was a little bit of a one-two-punch of growth," said Gina Hardy, Propel's marketing director.

In an attempt to keep the momentum growing, Propel will boost the media investment behind the brand, although the brand declined to say by how much. Last year, Propel got $14.5 million in measured media support, according to Kantar Media.

The new campaign uses the tagline "Made to Move" and shows men and women engaging in various gym workout routines. Mono is the lead creative agency, while VML is handling digital. Propel will also sponsor a portion of Under Armour's Map My Fitness app.

The new ads are meant to highlight the Gatorade-level of electrolytes in Propel. "We needed to make sure we established that point of difference in the market," Ms. Hardy said.

Asked if the brand risks cannibalizing sales from Gatorade, Ms. Hardy pointed to the fact that Propel has zero calories, and targets an older consumer. Gatorade's sweet spot is consumers ages 18 to 24, while Propel goes for a broader target of people ages 25 to 44, Ms. Hardy said. "Our consumer is not looking for sugar or anything in addition to the hydration benefit, so what we see is that [Propel and Gatorade] are are very mutually exclusive," she said.

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