Gatorade takes on the sports drink bully boy

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After a soft-launch last year, its a a full-blown push now for Pepsi's Gatorade Sports drink in the UK. They are attracted by the double digit growth in the energy/sports drink market (+11% in 2006 according to Mintel). But it does feel like they're arriving at the party way too late to get a date…

This is a market where Lucozade Sport dominates, with a whopping 64% market share of sports drinks. The Lucozade brand has been around for 40 years+, and the Sports version was launched way back in 1991. That's a 17 year head start. In the UK, Lucozade IS sports drinks. The next biggest -ade brand is Powerade, launched by Coke in 2001. Seven years on, and with the might of the Coke distribution model and the share is…. 19%.

So, let's put Gatorade through the brandgym bully boy screener introduced to evaluate another energy drink launch, of V versus Red Bull. We'll see how likely they are to get beaten up by picking a fight with Lucozade.

1. A decent bit of product/pack "sausage": you need some sort of product or pack innovation to make yourself worth considering. Not obvious at first sight what Gatorade has to get people to re-wire their brains from defaulting to Lucozade as THE sports drink.

Gatorade claim to be "improving performance since 1965"… and although this is longer than Lucozade Sport, it refers to US heritage. And there is no sign that people think Lucozade lacks heritage anyway.

Gatorade talks about you achieve "peak performance" through hydration. Lucozade has been hammering away a more specific claim on "33% longer".

Lucozade Sport also have a much wider range, based on user need, adding scale, credibility and impact:

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=> Lacks sausage [3/10]

2. Bravery to break codes: you also need to be brave enough to break some codes and stand out. Here again, afraid there is not much to go on. The name of course follows the -ade model of sports drinks (LucoZADE, PowerADE, GatorADE). The pack is the same, being long and thin, rather than using the fatter and stumpier US bottle.

And they use the same 2 key sports drink brand codes as Lucoazde:

– Sports Science and Lab: but here Lucozade have the very well established Lucozade Sports Science Institute. And look at the lab-based imagery: can you spot the difference between the 2 brands' websites?!

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– Athlete endorsement: again, Gatorade seems to be playing the same rules as Lucozade, by plugging pro sports people who use the brand. But Lucozade has been at this for years, and sponsor amongst others Stephen Gerard the Liverpool and England football star.

The one asset Gatorade does have going for them is one they don't seem to be pushing: its global, iconic status as the world's leading sports drink. As Arif Haq, Gatorade brand manager at PepsiCo said: ”Gatorade is one of the world’s most iconic sporting brands".

I think Gatorade could have positioned itself as "The Nike of sports drinks" = US, stylish, about winning with flair, cool. They could have re-positioned Lucozade and made them look the "Umbro os sports drinks" = local, UK only, out-dated, for geeks and serious sports people [Umbro is a UK brand of football gear].

3. Loadsamoney: you need some big bucks to fight
the big boys. Re-wiring peoples' brains is expensive. Gatorade plan to spend £5million, which aint bad. But this about the same as Lucozade Sport, and about half what the total Lucozade brand claim to spend.

4. Stamina: its one thing to launch. Its a whole
different challenge to keep up the battle for 2, 3, 4 years and longer.
Be ready for a long, hard and bloody fight. The good thing here is that Gatorade is a key priority for Pepi. And you can imagine them saying "We can't be a credible global brand without a decent share in the UK!". So, I guess they are in it for the long-run

5. Winning mix: its early days yet, but I do find the comms. campaign strange, and even a bit disturbing. It uses people made half of scientists, and half of athletes to get across the idea of "The Science of Winning". I wonder if a more Nike-esque approach focused on the sizzle would not have been a better way to go: cool, US, stylish, not just for geeks?

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=> [5/10]

TOTAL 23/50 = less than 50% chance of success, according to this sophisticated model! My prediction? Less than 20% market share within 2-3 years, taking mainly from Powerade who'll drop to 15%. Lucozade may go down a bit to 60%, but as the market is growing, sales will be OK.