Gatorade's New Selling Point: We're Necessary Performance Gear

Sports Beverage Tries Aggressive New Tack, Telling Athletes It's Not What You Put on Your Body -- but in It -- That Counts

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Gatorade is ringing in the New Year with a tagline and aggressive campaign that take an interesting new direction: Pitting nutrition against athletic gear in the battle for consumers' dollars.

A commercial breaking Jan. 2 during the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl introduces the theme "Win From Within" and posits that what athletes put into their bodies is just as important as what they put on them.

A voice-over in the spot, which juxtaposes high-school and college athletes against professionals like Dwyane Wade, Usain Bolt and Abby Wambach, says, "Your moisture-wicking fabric isn't enough. Your zero-weight shoes aren't enough. Your carbon-fiber racket isn't enough. The apps that track, analyze and motivate you aren't enough. Nothing you put on is ."

Gatorade's new campaign features Usain Bolt, above, Dwayne Wade and Abby Wambach.
Gatorade's new campaign features Usain Bolt, above, Dwayne Wade and Abby Wambach.
Consumer insight led to the creation of the global campaign and tagline from TBWA/Chiat/Day, which will roll out across key markets in 2012. Gatorade learned through consumer interviews that athletes, particularly those in high school and college, spend a disproportionate amount of money on the latest and greatest gear but eat fast food and pizza.

It's estimated that the nation's 23 million teens spend $100 billion annually, with roughly 34% spent on clothing and shoes, and less than half of that on food.

Meanwhile, just 10% of the food Americans consume falls into the sports-nutrition category, which includes gels, shakes and bars, said Sarah Robb O' Hagan, president-Gatorade North America and global CMO for PepsiCo's sports-nutrition group.

The category is "woefully" underdeveloped, Ms. Robb O' Hagan said, conceding that apparel and footwear brands have done a better job of making their products important -- even essential -- to sports-minded consumers.

"We were pushing these [nutrition] products out there for athletes, but hadn't really taken a step back and declared what we stood for and why they should even care about the category in the first place, let alone our products," said Ms. Robb O' Hagan, who is a former Nike executive. She said when you talk with athletes about the importance of spending on what they put into their bodies, "you see the penny drop. Instantly they change the way they think about what they eat."

The brand's last tagline, "Is it in you?" hasn't been in heavy rotation in years, and it's been three years since Gatorade mystified some consumers with "What's G?" Recently, the brand introduced its three-pronged strategy for sports nutrition in the form of Prime, Perform and Recover products.

Ms. Robb O' Hagan said athletes caught on to the brand's before, during and after concept quickly. What has been missing, however, is a conversation about why they need to fuel during those times and what they should be fueling with.

In the first commercial, the tagline appears with a hashtag, a move that Ms. Robb O' Hagan hopes will help get the discussion started. Gatorade Mission Control, a physical space where Gatorade and its agency execs monitor social media that launched in 2010, will be an integral part of monitoring the campaign. Mission Control is also expanding globally, with new locations in the U.K. and Latin America.

"This year in particular, with the number of campaigns coming out and the different angles ... you'll see us using the hashtag very purposefully when we're trying to get the conversation going," Ms. Robb O' Hagan said.

"We're expanding [Mission Control's] role, because there's a greater opportunity to connect the dots with the message we're putting out in other markets," she added.

Gatorade will also be putting more feet on the ground this year as it rolls out its G-Force across key markets. G-Force is a dedicated sales and marketing team that visits retailers and champions products at a local level.

Modeled after such groups at athletic companies, G-Force has been tested in Chicago and North Carolina. Many of the employees are former college athletes, said Ms. Robb O' Hagan, who added that early reaction to G-Force has been "phenomenal."

"We're bringing onboard new people and hiring specifically for their athletic knowledge. … It gives us an opportunity, with their sports expertise, to better educate the sales force as well," she said. "It's an aggressive, grass-roots effort -- one we're committed to and believe will be an anchor of the brand."

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