Super Bowl XLII reveals brands in-flux, searching for meaning, making a case for their own relevancy, and showing just how flexible they can be with the new consumer.
What is G? The first spot aired during the Rose Bowl, a black-and-white conveyor belt of people posing, smiling, some instantly recognizable, others vaguely so. Lil Wayne spoken-word poetry: gifts, gold, glory and game. A large white G to close.
Okay, I’ll admit that’s a harsh riff on Gatorades tagline, and 80s jingle that is still emblazoned on my brain. After all, according to Beverage Digest, Gatorade owned a 76.3 percent market share in ‘07 for take-home sports drinks.
In a room crammed with flat-screen monitors, Gatorade monitors social media and deduces what its customers want and what's next -- or should be next -- for the multibillion-dollar beverage brand. Launched in April, Gatorade Mission Control is credited with engaging consumers and informing the brand's strategy. The team has had more than 2,000 one-on-one conversations with consumers, while the brand's likes on Facebook have skyrocketed to 1.2 million, reaching the 1 million milestone a full five months ahead of schedule. Mission Control is credited with increasing mentions of G Series Pro, a subset of the G Series, by 9% on Facebook and Twitter.
Late last year live video events broadcast over the Internet started putting up TV-like viewership numbers: 10 million for a U2 concert, 3 million for the red carpet premiere of a Twilight sequel, and more than 250,000 for a screening of a film from hip hop mogul 50 Cent. Not surprisingly, it wasn't long before big brands started to take notice. But rather than simply inject advertising into live video the way one might with a television show, an increasing number of advertisers have started using the medium, using platforms like Ustream, Livestream and Justin.tv to produce compelling content and engage consumers.
Pepsi's social-media juggernaut continues this year with a focus on applying social efforts to the smaller brands in its portfolio. Speaking Thursday at MediaPost Communications' OMMA Social day-long forum, Bonin Bough, director of digital and social media at PepsiCo, said the company has become the biggest sponsor of some of the largest digital events, including BlogHer, Blogworld, SXSW, and Internet Week NY, where it has 125 people on staff.
In the realm of marketing, Gatorade is probably best known for splashy commercials featuring some of the world’s most famous athletes. However, a new effort behind the scenes of the PepsiCo-owned sports drink maker is putting social media quite literally at the center of the way Gatorade approaches marketing. The company recently created the Gatorade Mission Control Center inside of its Chicago headquarters, a room that sits in the middle of the marketing department and could best be thought of as a war room for monitoring the brand in real-time across social media.
How many favorite spots can you name from the past year? Exactly. Brand creativity has felt a bit like a zero sum game lately. As marketers and agencies have devoted more creative energy to digital and digitally spirited work, the creativity pool focused on commercials has seemed commensurately drained.
PepsiCo Inc. is launching a new ad campaign during Friday night's NBA playoffs meant to boost its struggling Gatorade business by getting athletes to gulp its iconic sports drink before, during, and after the game. The campaign, promoting the Purchase, N.Y., food and beverage giant's new lineup of "G Series" drinks for athletes, aims to demonstrate that Gatorade isn't just a sports drink that replaces nutrients sweated out during the game, but a system with three steps: a carbohydrate-loaded "Prime" concentrated liquid before play; the traditional "Perform" sports drink during; and a light, protein-rich "Recover" drink after.
The pressure is on Gatorade to perform this year, following a tough 2009 that had analysts, beverage industry watchers and the ad industry believing the granddaddy of sports drinks had lost its mojo. The turnaround hinges on a new campaign, an overhauled product lineup including before and after workout drinks, and a broadened definition of sports to include things such as surfing and acrobatics to lift Gatorade, which saw a 15.5% decline in volume last year.
Fortified waters and sports drinks saw steep volume declines last year, while the carbonated soft-drink category saw some rebound amid declines as consumers continue to shun packaged beverages. Overall, the beverage category declined 3.1% in volume in 2009. A year ago, the beverage category saw volume drop by 2.1%, the first decline on record. "The challenged economy is undoubtedly the single greatest factor that's impacted the performance of refreshment beverages in each of the last two years," said Gary Hemphill, managing director-chief operating officer at Beverage Marketing Corp. "It's possible this could continue into 2010. It's a little bit premature to say, but it's not beyond the realm of possibility."
Gatorade took a huge step in the revitalization of its brand this week by revealing a new structure for its mainstream product line called the “G Series”: three functionally complementary types of drinks to meet the various relevant need states of consumers, and an alliance with GNC for the launch of “G-Series Pro” products with a similar structure for serious athletes. Gatorade’s chief marketing officer, Sarah Robb O’Hagan, shared the rationale behind the new brand architecture with financial analysts in New York. Gatorade “is a formidable franchise,” said O'Hagan, the former Nike marketing executive, who joined the PepsiCo brand nearly two years ago. “But we haven’t had the right performance the last few years.” In 2009, she said, “We started a multi-year journey to turn this brand around."
PepsiCo is ready to close the book on the difficulties its North American beverage business has encountered in the last year. At its first analyst meeting since 2006, CEO Indra Nooyi said the company hasn't been happy with results in the division and will learn from its mistakes. She also publicly acknowledged the controversies the division has weathered. "There were a couple of brand refreshes that didn't work and a couple of agency partners that were misinterpreted or misquoted, and that led to controversy in North American beverages," she said during a keynote that opened the two-day analyst meeting.
Gatorade is looking to innovate itself out of a sales slump and will spend some $30 million on product and packaging development to do so. The granddaddy of the sports-drink category is pushing forward with plans to introduce "G Series," a grouping of three product categories, while giving another facelift to its core product lines.
PepsiCo is likely to give flagship Pepsi a diminished presence in the upcoming Super Bowl on CBS because the company fears the venue isn't a good fit with its brand message. Pepsi is worried that a Super Bowl spot might not be consistent with a new social-responsibility message. Instead, the beverage and snack giant might use its air time in next year's broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV, slated to air Feb. 7 from Miami, to promote some of its other brands, like Gatorade and Doritos.
Even as Tiger Woods remained hidden from public view on Tuesday in his home, or somewhere else, he has also begun to fade from view in his role as ubiquitous corporate pitchman for an array of products. When last seen in public, Woods was lying on the pavement in front of his home near Orlando on Nov. 27, moments after driving over a fire hydrant and crashing his Cadillac Escalade into a neighbor’s tree. The last time his corporate persona appeared on television was two nights later when, according to Nielsen, he was in a 30-second spot for the Gillette Company.
Gatorade is looking to pump up sagging sales with a new line of drinks targeting hard-core athletes. The launch is expected to involve new drinks, dubbed Prime, Perform and Recover, formulated to be consumed before, during and after athletic activity, industry sources say. The line, expected to be unveiled early next year, would be marketed to athletes—a reversal of Gatorade's previous effort to broaden the brand's appeal by recasting it as a soft drink. The Gatorade-as-soft-drink pitch helped turn the Chicago-based brand into a top performer for Purchase, N.Y.-based parent PepsiCo Inc. But sales growth hit a wall this year as the recession drove soft-drink lovers to cheaper options, and rivals such as Coca-Cola Co.'s Powerade stole marketshare. A major push to rebrand Gatorade as “G” failed to stem the losses. Now Gatorade Chief Rich Beck is counting on the new drinks to reinvigorate PepsiCo's third-largest product line.
Most marketing experts believe tennis star Serena Williams isn't in danger of losing any of her estimated $12 million in annual endorsement deals after her profane outburst at the U.S. Open -- none of her sponsors dropped her, and Nike and Kraft Foods put out a statement of support. But the more intriguing story seems to be the newfound marketing potential of her opponent and the eventual U.S. Open champion, Kim Clijsters.
It all started with Pedro the Dog. Early in 2008, Pepsi marketers were still figuring out their new top executive, Massimo d'Amore, recently named head of PepsiCo Americas Beverages. But they quickly got a taste of what was to come as Mr. d'Amore did an end run around the brand's marketing team and then-Gatorade agency Element 79 by working with Peter Arnell to create a Super Bowl ad. The spot, which consisted of little more than a big, black dog lapping Gatorade from a bowl, was widely criticized. Since then, an exodus of key marketing and brand executives has plagued a company once known for incubating top talent.
Gatorade maintains that "What is G?" is right on track, despite plummeting sales, consumer confusion and reports that creative is back on the drawing board. PepsiCo restaged its iconic Gatorade brand earlier this year. According to Beverage Digest, Gatorade's volume plummeted 18% in the first half of 2009, when the effort, from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Los Angeles, asked and then answered "What is G?"
Yesterday's verdict in favor of Coca-Cola's Powerade had a lot to do with endurance -- Gatorade Endurance, court documents revealed. On April 13, Gatorade's parent company, the PepsiCo-owned Stokley Van Camp, filed suit against Coca-Cola's Powerade ION4 product. It alleged false advertising, trademark dilution as well as other claims.
Two items in the Wall Street Journal caught my eye today. Both show us the American corporation as it struggles to divine the mysteries of American culture.
The newly reformulated Powerade contains "ION4," and the branding emphasizes the secret code for this new concoction at the expense of the name of the product. I'm not sure that’s such a smart thing to do.
The National Basketball Association could just be headed toward a dream Finals matchup between its two most marketable stars, one that will result in massive buzz, bigger TV ratings -- and a nightmare for two of its biggest sponsors, Adidas and Gatorade.
Marketers are increasingly defending their brands by filing complaints or going to court against rivals in these tough economic times. Complaints to the ad industry's self-regulatory agency are on the upswing this year as marketers show less tolerance for direct or implied jabs by rivals in advertising — and rivals are more tempted to take such jabs.
Was Massimo D'Amore overly ambitious in his effort to boost all of PepsiCo's North American beverage brands at once?
It's better to be first than it is to be better. Many people believe that the basic issue in marketing is convincing prospects that you have a better product or service. Not true. If you have a small market share and you have to do battle with larger, better-financed competitors, then your marketing strategy was probably faulty in the first place. You violated the first law of marketing. The basic issue in marketing is creating a category you can be first in. It's the law of leadership: It's better to be first than it is to be better. It's much easier to get into the mind first than to try to convince someone you have a better product than the one that did get there first.
I was sitting on the couch Sunday night, watching TV with my husband, when I collided with a Gatorade G2 commercial featuring Kevin Garnett. As I watched, I could not believe my eyes or my ears, and rewound live TV (thank God for DVRs; what did we do before these magical things existed?) to watch it all again.
It was a good year for beverages, as the two most successful new brands in 2008 were Gatorade's G2 and Dunkin' Donuts coffee. The pair topped Information Resources Inc.'s annual Pacesetters list of most successful brands, surpassing the elusive $100 million benchmark for a hit new product.
In tough economic times, many companies launch new brands to keep the attention of consumers and stimulate demand at distribution channels. Nothing is wrong with launching new brands. As a matter of fact, now is a very good time to do that. But to hedge their bets, top management at most companies have chosen to launch line-extensions instead of launching products with new brand names.
The billboard shows the vertical half of what appears to be a Gatorade bottle on one side, with the other side open to the bare blue sky. But what might at first be taken for a mistake is explained by the text: "Don't settle for an incomplete sports drink." A few feet down the road perches another billboard, this one showing a fully intact bottle of Powerade. It's tagged: "The complete sports drink."
The Gatorade ad first aired Jan. 1 during the Rose Bowl. No indication was given as to what it was advertising, leaving viewers to ponder the possibilities. It wasn't until the Super Bowl that Gatorade officially revealed that G is the new face of its product. The monthlong mystery was designed to generate buzz for a major rebranding effort, now under way.
Ever since Gatorade’s mystery Mission G site surfaced earlier last week, I’ve been curious as to what they were planning for Super Bowl Sunday. During their What G Means Super Bowl spot, they directed viewers to Mission G. After digging around a bit it looks like it is going to be Gatorade’s attempt at a full-bown advertainment community site.
As viral sensations go, it doesn't get much better than "What's G." The cryptic commercial was crammed with celebrities, yet never mentioned that Gatorade was the product. And that sparked a national frenzy of blog chatter and punditry. Earlier this week, Jimmy Smith, the creative director of the TBWA/Chiat/Day group that created the campaign, faced reporters to explain just what "G" was. <div style="padding: 0px 0px 0px 0px;"> <a href="http://adage.com/video"><img src="/images/random/video_alladage417bar.jpg" width="417" height="40" border="0" /></a> </div>
As anyone with a fluid ounce of sense should have realized, G is Gatorade, as envisioned by its new agency, TBWA, Los Angeles. Apparently, though, plenty of viewers were stymied.
What's G? That's what consumers have been asking ever since Gatorade began running its ambiguous black-and-white spots featuring only the stark letter G in the closing shot. Unfortunately, relatively few of them immediately found the answer.