Jan. 10, 2014 I’ve written a lot about the heavy marketing of sugary/salty sports drinks over water for hydration, and this post about “kidney stones in kindergarten” serves as a public health reminder about high sodium intake in children that’s been a salt assault, sending wee ones to urology clinics at increasingly earlier ages…
Today’s guest post by Nancy Huehnergarth is a doozie.
“Water Is the Enemy, Gatorade Mobile Game Tells Youth” (which originally appeared on Civil Eats where she is a contributor) is extra hard to swallow when you read some of the tactics from the transcript and tactics using Twitter and celebrities, overtly and outrageously tapping kids on the mobile channel to sell goods that impact their health…ESPECIALLY when plain ol’ water is the hydration recommendation of pediatricians stated with clarity, “Kids Should NOT Consume Energy Drinks and Rarely Need Sports Drinks, Says AAP.”
I’ll follow up with DigitalAds.org for policy Q&A, as their site exposes how marketers target youth, and also interview Nancy further about the duplicitous marketing tactics when industry pros are caught red-handed and scramble to take their videos down and bury the bones (er, bottles) to go underground (shades of this post I wrote when Colt Blast partnered with SnoopDogg to shill for alcopops which vanished from the blogosphere faster than you can say “SnapChat”).
Meanwhile, please spread the word to parents, kids’ coaches, and children in your lives that sports drinks are usually ‘overkill’ in hydration needs, sans full tilt exertion for about an hour straight; read on about AAP parameters…
Water Is the Enemy, Gatorade Mobile Game Tells Youth
by Nancy Huehnergarth
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:
- Coca-Cola nationwide “Cap the Tap” program that teaches and rewards restaurant wait staff for turning a tap water order into a profitable Coke beverage order. (Note: Coca-Cola shut down the Cap the Tap webpage after it was criticized.)
- Corporate supporters listed on the Drink Up website (American Beverage Association, Dasani, Aquafina, and Crystal Clear Water) linked to pages marketing non-plain water drinks. (Note: The links on the Drink Up supporters page are no longer active, after they were criticized but you can see what they used to link to here.)
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 8th: 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.
– See more at: http://civileats.com/2014/01/07/water-is-the-enemy-gatorade-mobile-game-tells-youth/#sthash.L9FDCnOy.bfEdyahW.dpuf
Nancy Huehnergarth is a HuffPost blogger and contributor to Civil Eats. This post first appeared on Civil Eats, and Nancy has informed us that Civil Eats also now has the full transcript of the video posted, since it was taken down. (Quel surprise!) Here’s her latest update:
“The case study video about the Gatorade mobile game was removed this afternoon (January 8th) after a reporter called both Gatorade and OMD to ask about their claim that water is the enemy that hinders athletic performance. In place of the video is this message: “Sorry. Because of its privacy settings this video cannot be played here.”
Follow Nancy on Twitter @NYShepa or directly on her nutrition and food advocacy consulting site…We’ll be hearing more from Nancy on Shaping Youth soon… Meanwhile here are a few related reading posts on food marketing and kids to keep you apprised!
Related Reading by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth
Marketing Tactics/Kids’ Nutrition
Amy Jussel’s Health + Media Literacy Tips for Critical Thinking About Food Marketing
(Presented at NAMLE: National Media Literacy Educators Association)