Propel Cuts the Calories, Boosts Spending for Ad Push

Goodby's Swan Song Ads for the Brand Feature Cindy Crawford

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Propel is remaking itself as a Zero.

The enhanced water used to be a part of PepsiCo's Gatorade trademark, targeting competitive athletes. Now, following a decline in advertising spending and market share, it's cutting out the calories -- it used to contain 10 calories per 8-ounce serving -- and repositioning itself as Propel Zero, a beverage for "active, inspired" consumers. Cindy Crawford has been tapped as the face of the brand and is set to appear in new TV spots airing March 21.

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Esperanza Teasdale, director-marketing Propel, admitted that the brand hasn't received a lot of attention in recent years, but she is determined to return it to growth. Propel, she said, still has a lot of loyal users, as well as fans internally at PepsiCo.

"We were the original enhanced water, positioned toward a competitive athlete in an intense sport. But as the category evolved, so did our consumers," Ms. Teasdale said. "They're using us way more than just in the gym. We're trying to show consumers that we hear them."

Propel Zero will skew older than some of its key competitors in the flavored, enhanced-water category, primarily targeting members of Generation X and younger baby boomers. Other players in the space include Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater Zero and PepsiCo's SoBe Lifewater with zero calories. Both brands saw phenomenal growth in 2010 as consumers latched on to the zero-calorie proposition. Vitaminwater Zero, launched last year, now controls 6% of the enhanced- or flavored-water category, while SoBe Lifewater with zero calories nearly doubled its share to 10%, according to Beverage Digest. Propel, meanwhile, saw its share fall three points to 16% in 2010.

To reposition the brand with consumers, Propel Zero is ramping up spending and readying a flurry of media to feature Ms. Crawford and her brood. Ms. Teasdale said it's the biggest investment in the brand in about three years. Spending is expected to be in the tens of millions, exceeding the $8 million spent on measured media in 2009 but not quite reaching the $40 million spent in 2008. Last year the brand spent just $330,000, according to Kantar.

Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, had been Propel's agency. The upcoming campaign will be the agency's swan song. The brand confirmed it's now on the hunt for a new shop and that Goodby won't be participating

The campaign features the tagline "Get More From Your Zero" and will include a 30- and 15-second spot, as well as digital media and a robust in-store and sampling program. The spots show a casual Ms. Crawford making her way through the day, jogging with her dogs and on an elliptical machine. Her husband, Rande Gerber, and children, Presley, 11, and Kaia, 9, also have cameos.

Ms. Teasdale said Mr. Gerber had been slated to be included but Presley and Kaia were a last-minute addition. Ms. Crawford, she said, explained to her kids that there would be "fake kids" in the commercial, an idea they weren't fond of. It's the first time the family of four has worked together on a commercial shoot.

"It was really natural," Ms. Teasdale said of the family's interactions on the set. "We didn't have to stage a lot, in the sense that they have this really active, inspired life. Her reality is something we can connect with."

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