The launch of G Series, a collection of beverages, chews and
shakes organized into categories including prime, perform and
recover, is one way Gatorade aims to leverage its huge lead in
sports drinks into the booming sports-nutrition category. According
to Euromonitor International, that category, which includes
beverages, bars, shakes, powders and gels, has grown 63% since
2007, reaching $4.7 billion in 2012.
Jonas Feliciano, a beverage analyst, and Chris Schmidt, a consumer
health analyst, both with Euromonitor, are skeptical Gatorade will
be able to penetrate the "hard-core" bodybuilder or endurance
athlete from a sport-nutrition perspective. But both agree Gatorade
has an advantage with younger athletes, given mom's comfort level
with the brand.
"There tends to be quite a bit of brand loyalty among sport
nutrition users, so [it's important] to hook them when they're
young," noted Mr. Schmidt. That said, "it's hard to say what the
return on investment is. If they're really serious about getting
into sport nutrition, [G Force] could help, but it's a long-term
G Force is charged with educating athletes, coaches and trainers
about the merits of fueling before, during and after workouts,
while at the same time ensuring that key locations, from high
schools to training facilities, have easy access to G Series
products. G Force customers, including schools, are given preferred
pricing on products. Alfie Brody, director-marketing for the
athletic channel, wouldn't disclose specifics, but said the pricing
varies based on the venue.
Creating G Force
It's not unusual for beverage brands to invest in field marketing
teams, though often they focus on sampling events and reaching a
broad swath of consumers. Gatorade's hybrid team was modeled, in
part, after the teams used by mrketers like Nike to educate athletes on
their products. Mr. Brody said Gatorade also closely studied
PepsiCo's food-service field sales operation and field marketing
teams, and in several cases, borrowed from their playbooks.
"We studied everything from how they design [key performance
indicators], build territories and assign geographies, initiate and
manage field relationships, to their use of technology and
proprietary software," Mr. Brody said. "We replicated the
rep-to-manager ratio, utilized similar marketing tools, including
cars, home-office setup, activation tools, etc. and built a similar
overall P&L and budget."
Thirty-two full-time G Force reps and regional managers blanket
the markets, while two execs with G Force responsibilities -- Mary
Doherty, senior director-experiential and athletic channel
marketing and Mr. Brody -- are based at Gatorade's Chicago
headquarters. Gatorade invests heavily in training and managing the
G Force, whose members are not compensated based on sales. They
spend time at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, as well as
Gatorade headquarters in Chicago as part of the "Gatorology"
training program. They often have a background in sales or
athletics -- Meg Yoder, the rep for Orlando, joined Gatorade from
Adidas and is an avid runner -- though it's not a requirement.