Water is the Enemy, Gatorade Mobile Game Tells Youth

Nutrition

UPDATE January 11: IAB Mixx Bronze winner Gatorade (for strategies and objectives in mobile advertising for their Bolt! mobile gaming integration) has completely disappeared from the IAB Award Winners Gallery.

If you thought Big Soda’s decades-long “War on Water”–part of their strategy to increase sales of soda and other bottled drinks–couldn’t get any worse, you were wrong. The latest assault, courtesy of PepsiCo, is in the form of a mobile game for youth that brands water as the enemy of athletic performance.

According to a case study video posted on the 2013 Interactive Advertising Bureau MIXX Awards Winners Gallery, bronze award-winner Gatorade took action after learning that teen athletes often choose “to drink water during practice because they thought it provided the proper hydration they needed.”

Of course, for all but a minute percentage of youth athletic endeavors (such as a marathon or all day soccer tournament) water is the ideal choice for proper hydration, but that didn’t faze sugary drink brand Gatorade one bit. In an effort to change hearts and minds, as well as further increase parent company PepsiCo’s enormous profits, Gatorade brand managers asked media agency OMD to drive home the following message to youth athletes: Gatorade is superior to water.

The case study video goes on to describe how OMD responded cleverly, integrating Gatorade’s new anti-water message into an existing Gatorade-sponsored mobile game, called Bolt!:

“We came up with an entertaining and competitive way to reinforce to teens that consuming Gatorade would help them perform better on the field and that water was the enemy of performance.

Working with a game developer (Rock Live, Inc.), we integrated Gatorade into Bolt!, a mobile game featuring Usain Bolt, Gatorade athlete and the fastest man in the world. The integration needed to position Gatorade as the hero helping drive better performance and higher scores with water as the enemy that hinders performance.”

The objective of OMD’s newly created integrated game, released in the U.S. in April, 2013, “was to maneuver Usain’s character through a course in the fastest time possible, gathering Gatorade along the way to make him go faster and avoiding drops of water that slow him down.” That’s a pretty clear message PepsiCo is sending to kids and teens–drink “hero” Gatorade if you want to perform at your peak as an athlete, like Olympian Usain Bolt. But drink the “enemy” water and your performance will suffer.

Not surprisingly, the mobile game campaign to brand water as the enemy was a rip-roaring success. According to the video, Gatorade attracted four million online fans and “a network of influential celebrities to generate buzz around the game, including Usain himself, Troy Polamalu, and Justin Bieber.”  The game has had 2.3 million downloads and has been played 87 million times. The majority of players (73 percent) fall within Gatorade’s key demographic segment of 13-to-24 years old. However impressive those numbers are, the most impressive number to Gatorade is this:

“More importantly though, the 820 million brand impressions generated, drove home the message that Gatorade helps you perform better than water.”

If anyone was still harboring hopes that Big Soda was really interested in helping First Lady Michelle Obama increase water consumption through her Drink Up Campaign, this latest attack on water should burst that bubble.

To briefly recap, Big Soda’s War on Water has so far also included:

The next obvious question is what else is Big Soda doing to quash consumer water consumption, and damage the First Lady’s Drink Up campaign, that we have yet to discover? Stay tuned…

You can watch the full video about the Bolt game here.

UPDATE January 8: The case study video about the Gatorade mobile game was rendered inoperable this afternoon with the message “Sorry. Because of its privacy settings this video cannot be played here.”  However, here is a transcript of the video:

Bolt! Mobile Gaming Drives Home Gatorade’s Message to Teens

You know, as we were doing research for Gatorade, we found that even elite athletes sometimes eat pizza and drink soda in between practices, despite their coach’s pleas for them to be smarter about what they consume.  So if they do it, is it any surprise that even the best teen athletes do it too?

We also found teen athletes often chose to drink water during practice because they thought it provided the proper hydration they needed.

So we came up with an entertaining and competitive way to reinforce to teens that consuming Gatorade would help them perform better on the field and that water was the enemy of performance.

Working with a game developer, we integrated Gatorade into Bolt!, a mobile game featuring Usain Bolt, Gatorade athlete and the fastest man in the world. The integration needed to position Gatorade as the hero helping drive better performance and higher scores with water as the enemy that hinders performance.

The objective was to maneuver Usain’s character through a course in the fastest time possible, gathering Gatorade along the way to make him go faster and avoiding drops of water that slow him down.

Gatorade social media center, mission control, harnessed 4 million online fans and a network of influential celebrities to generate buzz around the game, including Usain himself, Troy Polamalu and Justin Bieber.

Bieber:  “The last app I downloaded it’s called Bolt …it’s pretty cool.”

This earned and owned exposure generated strong results and a happy client with no paid media supporting the campaign. The game was downloaded almost 2 ½ million times, played 87 million times with almost ¾ of the players falling into Gatorade’s key 13 to 24 year old demographic.

More importantly though, the 820 million brand impressions generated, drove home the message that Gatorade helps you perform better than water.

 

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  1. Ellee
    Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
    Wow. I checked out the video link...and it's hideous. My kiddo is the only one on his soccer team that turns down Gatorade at the end of his games. It actually turns his whole mouth the color of the drink, which he correctly identifies as disgusting.
  2. Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
    Terrible. Just terrible. In the short-term for kids that need quick energy and burn a lot of glucose, it might be "okay", but it is never really healthy in my mind.

    The biggest problem is thinking that it is healthy throughout life no matter the activity level. HUGE problem that faces western society not just with Gatorade, but with juices as well IMO.
  3. Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
    I've been deprogramming my kids from thinking sports drinks are good for them after my 5th grader brought home a lesson plan from school extolling the benefits of Gatorade. Thank you for making parents aware of these underhanded marketing methods. http://kyhealthykids.com/2013/02/22/when-schools-become-ads/
  4. Nancy Huehnergarth
    Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
    I've been asked by a number of people what they can do about this Gatorade mobile game, which many of us believe trumpets an extremely deceptive message. My suggestion is to write your state attorney general and ask him/her to investigate Gatorade's claim that Gatorade is superior to water and that water is the enemy of athletic performance. Here is a link that gives contact information for each of the U.S. state attorney generals: http://www.naag.org/current-attorneys-general.php
  5. Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
    Shameful considering the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "Water, not sports drinks, should be the principal source of hydration for children and adolescents."
  6. Josmat
    Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
    Colorants and preservatives increase the possibilities of having tumors, health complications and even cancer. I had breast pain last year and my doctor said to me to avoid any of these in order to soothe the pain. It really worked! Less sugar, chemical additives and colorants will improve your health. Water is the perfect drink in any occasion, doesn´t make you gain weight and is just what your body needs.
  7. ltc
    Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
    The video linked to is now private. Guess they didn't like the light you shone on this horrendous campaign.
  8. Friday, January 10th, 2014
    Sadly corporate profits over corporate responsibility at the expense of our youth. Really shameful. Thanks for sharing this.
  9. Saturday, January 11th, 2014
    Wow spooky. They'll tell us and our kids anything. I've been learning that's the rule of thumb for these company: tell them anything to sell our products and they'll believe it. Sadly we do. And I mean ANYTHING. Water is the enemy of performance? Spooky stuff.
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