Gatorade punches back at Bodyarmor as sports drink battle intensifies
PepsiCo’s Gatorade is finally hitting back at Bodyarmor after years of weathering attacks from the beverage start-up. The escalation of the sports drink marketing wars comes after Bodyarmor has eaten into Gatorade’s market-share dominance with ads that questioned the larger brand’s health credentials.
Gatorade’s new campaign attempts to shift the conversation to its new line extension, Bolt24, which debuted last year and downplays the Gatorade branding. The new campaign calls Bolt24 the “super easy choice” while stating that the drink contains 30 percent less sugar than Bodyarmor.
Gatorade’s campaign will run in retail outlets and include ads on video screens on gas pumps, as well as local radio ads, according to Beverage-Digest, which first reported the news. The agency is Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Gina Hardy, Gatorade’s head of brand marketing, said in a statement to Ad Age: “For us, it’s important that everything we do is in service of athletes. Transparency builds trust and that’s why it’s important to call out the facts Bodyarmor has chosen to leave out for years. While this campaign is a first for any Gatorade brand, our intent is nothing new—we’re servicing athlete’s needs around the clock. Athletes want options and for those who are discerning about ingredients, Bolt24 offers it all with less sugar than Bodyarmor and we want to make sure that’s not confused.”
Mike Repole, founder and chairman at Bodyarmor, issued a feisty statement in response: “We are flattered that Gatorade is worried and concerned about us. It’s understandable since every day we are picking up thousands and thousands of their consumers who are switching to Bodyarmor because we are a much better sports drink.”
He added: “We actually want to thank Gatorade because their campaign will help grow Bodyarmor’s awareness and increase our sales. I hope they plan on running the Bolt 24 campaign early, since Bolt 24 will be discontinued by year’s end.”
Launched in 2011, Bodyarmor’s marketing has attempted to portray Gatorade as outdated, while making claims that it is “more natural” than its larger foe. Its investors include 20 sports stars, including James Harden, Mike Trout, Naomi Osaka, Dustin Johnson and Mookie Betts. (Coca-Cola took an ownership stake in 2018.) The athletes often appear in the brand’s ads; Harden appeared in a previous campaign that used the line “Thanks Gatorade, we’ll take it from here.”
Gatorade, of course, has its own roster of star endorsers, which have keyed the brand’s marketing, dating back to iconic efforts like its “Be Like Mike” campaign that keyed its rise in the early 1990s. The brand recently signed National Basketball Association phenom Zion Williamson, and counts A-listers like Serena Williams among its endorsers.
But, until now, Gatorade has resisted firing back at Bodyarmor, treating it instead “like a political challenger whose name was never to be invoked by the incumbent,” notes Beverage-Digest.
The shift in strategy comes as Bodyarmor continues to chip away at Gatorade’s longtime dominance. PepsiCo’s sports drink portfolio—which includes Gatorade, Gatorade Zero and G2—commanded 70 dollar market share in the sports drink category, according to Beverage-Digest. But in the first half of 2020, its share fell by 1.6 points as Bodyarmor gained 3.3 points, rising to 12.8 percent dollar share.
“Gatorade is the market leader but Bodyarmor has mounted a significant challenge,” says Duane Standford, editor and publisher at Beverage-Digest. “At some point, you have to fight fire with fire.”