Thanks, Element 79, for Not Sugar Coating Gatorade AM

Real Credit Goes to the Agency for Showing Some Restraint

By Published on .

Here's the good thing about Gatorade: If you're doing intensive exercise, like a complete basketball game or a marathon or anything prolonged and vigorous, the carbs and electrolytes help replenish what you lose by sweating. (For anything less prolonged and vigorous, experts have said, water will do just fine.)

Now, here's the bad thing about Gatorade: It has the texture of sugar-sweetened motor oil. That hasn't stopped it from becoming a gargantuan business in an even more gargantuan sports-drink category, but it does have some implications for growth. The hydration market is pretty well, uh, saturated at the moment, and the easiest path to more volume is by adding not a demographic but a day part.

Gatorade for breakfast? Original lemon-lime or Riptide Rush? 10W-30 or 10W-40?


Cough medicine, sea water, swamp water
But PepsiCo is way ahead of you. Aware that consumers have compared its flavors to cough medicine, sea water, swamp water, antifreeze and several famous-name excretions, the company has introduced Gatorade AM in the allegedly morning-palatable orange-strawberry flavor for the "50% of exercisers [who] aren't hydrated before their workout."

Hmm. This could be a tough sell. While the taste may be a bit more appealing, the texture remains unchanged; the sliminess is due to the very dissolved salts that give the product a raison d'etre. Furthermore, considering the sufficiency of plain water for routine exercise, it's a dubious selling proposition. Does anyone really need this stuff first thing in the morning?

Not many, that's for sure.

This presents an interesting test for Element79 Partners, Chicago. In introducing a brand extension whose existence is owed far more to business imperatives than any actual consumer benefit, will they resist the temptation to position a sports drink as a health drink? Will they try to compare themselves favorably to orange juice -- which is, you know, actually good for you?

Product is cynical, not the ad
Well, here's some fairly remarkable news. The advertising is far less cynical than the product itself.

The TV spot opens on a pretty summer's morning on a quiet suburban street. The milkman is making his deliveries, but ... wait a second ... it's NBA star Kevin Garnett, and that isn't milk in his carrier. It's Gatorade AM. He drops off a bottle of potassium- and sodium-infused punch, picks up the empty and turns around.

Oh! There's the next-door neighbor watering his lawn! And it's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. And, oh, look! Here comes a minivan to pick up the girls for soccer. Only it's not a soccer mom. It's Mia Hamm, and the girls are pros Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach. "Kristine! Abby!" Hamm hollers. "Hurry up. Hurry up. Let's go!" They grab their bottles of Gatorade and scramble to their ride.

Manning's comic perfection
Then the voice over: "Introducing Gatorade AM, the Gatorade that comes in morning flavors, so you can get the most out of your morning workout." At the next house, the homeowner rushes past Garnett, grabbing his Gatorade as he passes. It's Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, hurrying to the team bus. "Thanks," Manning says. "Playbook," Garnett says, rolling his eyes. "Playbook," Manning repeats and does a seamless 180 to go fetch it. As always, Manning's performance -- even of two words -- is comic perfection.

But the real credit goes to the agency for its restraint. Obviously, these are celebrity athletes, and their endorsement fuels the sell. But they are all also shown on their way to pro-level exercise, when an electrolyte boost is genuinely recommended. PepsiCo obviously doesn't mind if you unnecessarily load the kids up on sugar water at breakfast, but the ad refuses to lead you there. Well done, advertising.

Wasn't sure you had it in you.

~ ~ ~
Review: 3 stars
Marketer: Gatorade
Agency: Element79 Partners, Chicago
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