Sports Drink Battle: Going to extremes

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As many marketers ponder whether to create brand extensions targeting Hispanics, Gatorade has launched a sub-brand called Xtremo, and rival Powerade is about to break its first general-market ad campaign with calculated Latin appeal.

PepsiCo's Xtremo, introduced under the Gatorade name last month, is already claiming a 2.5% share of sports drinks sold in convenience stores. Given that it is only sold in about 30% of the U.S. market and just one 32-ounce size, "Xtremo is moving at about equally high velocity" as the most popular Gatorade flavors, said Andy Horrow, Gatorade's director of equity communications.

Taking a different approach, Coca-Cola Co.-owned Powerade is breaking a spot on English-language networks in mid-June set at a baseball game in the Dominican Republic. Two scouts chat in English over a play-by-play commentary in Spanish. A player hits a home run, a girl in the stands catches the ball-and fires it back to home plate. The premise is in line with the Powerade campaign featuring unusual feats that may or may not be real, such as a runner leaping across an open drawbridge.

`baby steps'

"We're taking baby steps [in the Hispanic market]," said Michael La Kier, Powerade's manager-national consumer promotions and leader of the new Hispanic effort. The spot will be accompanied by Powerade's first-ever Spanish-language translations of point-of-sale materials, he said. "We'll take the baseball spot and do things around it, like local activities with scholarships and refurbishing baseball diamonds," he said.

A second spot, focusing on foot volleyball, a common Latin American beach sport, breaks in August, Mr. La Kier said. The commercials are from Powerade's general-market agency, independent Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., which does multicultural advertising for Nike.

But that's just the beginning. "In-language, in-culture spots will be next year, in 2003," Mr. La Kier said.

Gatorade has been doing Spanish-language advertising since the 1980s."The Latin population is very highly concentrated in the sun belt-the big Gatorade markets-like Texas, southern California and Florida," Mr. Horrow said. "The [sales] numbers weren't down, but we're trying to expand frequency of use [with the new product]. Just doing advertising didn't seem like enough."

In the 15-second Xtremo spot, the camera closes in on the face of an athlete sweating mango-colored drops that run down each cheek to form the letter "X." The ad is from Gatorade and Pepsi's Hispanic agency, Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, backed by Omnicom Group.

To find the right flavors for U.S. Hispanics, Gatorade tested the more exotic and tropical flavors already being used in different Latin American markets. Mr. Horrow said the Xtremo launch is national, but that retailers will decide where to stock it, so its mango, citrus and tropical flavors are most likely to be found in heavily Hispanic areas.

In the $3.6 billion sports-drink market, which is growing 10 times as fast as carbonated soft drinks, Gatorade has an 86% share in take-home channels to Powerade's growing 12%, according to Beverage Digest.

contributing: hillary chura

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