Gatorade pumps big budget into star-studded campaign after PepsiCo’s marketing pull-back

PepsiCo revealed that 2020 would be a year in which it pulled back on some of its marketing spend. But its sports drink brand Gatorade has just funnelled big budgets into a start-studded campaign designed to take it through to the second-half of the year.

On an earnings call last week, PepsiCo detailed how in 2019 it has upped marketing spend across its brands to the tune of 12%. This year, however, its chief financial officer said it would be making cuts and investment would go into its “classic brands”.

It had hinted that the likes of Doritos, Cheetos, energy drink Rockstar and Pepsi Zero would be the beneficiaries of continued spend and it seems Gatorade can be added to the list as it launches a major advertising campaign featuring a host of sporting stars.

Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Michael Jordan and Leo Messi are just some of the big names gracing the international marketing push for the sports drink as it looks to “reinforce the brand and its history” of supporting top athletes.

“What we want to do this year is really come back to the history, the storytelling and the power of the brand,” said Mark Kirkham, vice-president and general manager of sports nutrition and juice, global beverages group, at PepsiCo.

“Over the years we’ve not just fuelled the greats of today but we’re also to helping to fuel the greats of tomorrow. That's really the focus of what we're trying to do with this campaign.

"We want to reinforce that we've always been there as not just a sports drink, but as a brand and as a company to take athletes all the way to professional development. And that's why we’re looking to this campaign as a way of re-establishing some of that credibility as the greatest sports fuel of all time.”

Entitled ‘GOAT Camp’ the marketing push brings the four titans of sport together for the first time in a spot that shows a fictional training camp where athletes are given the chance to learn from the best. The hero creative, from TBWA, shows future GOATs (or Greatest of All Time) being scouted and given a golden ticket that grants them access to the camp.

Kirkham declined to comment on the total spend, but there is a lot riding on this work.

PepsiCo has put more focus on its non-fizzy product lines, like Gatorade, in recent years to combat the decline in soda consumption. In the US sports drink category, Gatorade remains the top brand, holding a massive 72.1% market share of retail sales, according to Euromonitor. Its nearest competitor is Coke’s Powerade which has a 16.1% share.

But Kirkham is mindful of the many emerging brands ready to chip away at that dominance. In 2017 it suffered its first sales drop in the US since 2012 due to the intensifying competition, dropping 0.5% to $5.9bn. To rectify the blip, a big-budget ad push came with the hire of footballers Leo Messi and Gabriel Jesus to talk up the performance benefits.

“There are a lot of beverages out there in a lot of different stages of market development,” he said. This is why it’s focused on talking up its 55-year legacy and its “backed by science” credentials with this new effort.

“We had to go back to our roots and remind consumers of the history and bring it to life, not through ambassadors who you just put in a campaign but four amazing ambassadors who have worked with us for many years and that Gatorade has been with through their journey."

It will roll out across international markets this week - including Latin America which is one of its biggest growth regions - on TV, digital, and in-store.

This campaign will also take it through the crucial summer of sport period. It has historically tied itself to football in previous marketing executions, especially in the past four years after inking a sponsorship deal with the Champions League.

But with the Olympics, Paralympics, Euros and Ryder Cup also airing this year over the next six months the brand has ensured that the campaign can flex to feature more sports.

“We’re scaling the storytelling platform that really brings in all the different sports […] to reinforce that Gatorade has really been helping drive athletic performance and driving people to participate in sport.”

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