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PepsiCo flavored water brand Propel taps Michael B Jordan to lead community initiative


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

February 2, 2023 | 8 min read

A multi-year collaboration with actor, producer and director Michael B Jordan aims to advance equal access to fitness and help Propel get a leg up on competitors.

Michael B Jordan for Propel

Propel and Michael B Jordan have signed a multi-year deal / Gatorade

Gatorade spinoff Propel Fitness Water has announced a packaging redesign and a new community-oriented partnership with Black Panther star Michael B Jordan. The partnership will span creative collaboration and storytelling, with a focus on the brand’s efforts to advance access and equity in fitness and sports.

The brand has a history of investing in community-based initiatives designed to inspire people to become more active. Last year, Propel teamed up with actress Mindy Kaling in its ‘JOWO (Joy of Working Out)’ campaign, which included a multi-city tour offering free fitness classes and $100,000 in grants to up-and-coming fitness trainers.

Now, the brand has tapped Jordan to further its community programming goals. “Our shared goal with Michael is to combine forces to provide resources, access and opportunities for fitness in more spaces across the country,” says Gatorade’s chief brand officer, Anuj Bhasin. Though the details remain under wraps, Bhasin hints that Jordan will appear in forthcoming TV ads and will lead a handful of community programs as part of a multi-year partnership.

Jordan is a natural fit for Propel, argues Bhasin, because he is “both an aspirational athlete and an approachable figure.”

What’s more, the actor has a history of working with charitable causes that seek to improve access and equity for underrepresented communities. “The more we learned about his approach to fitness and community, the more this partnership made sense for Propel’s next chapter,” says Bhasin.

In particular, Jordan established the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic college basketball showcase, which spotlights men’s teams from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This year’s showcase will take place this Saturday (February 4) at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Propel will support the event with an in-game dance and cheer performance and will also sponsor a series of post-game workouts.

“I have been lucky to be surrounded by people who inspire me to achieve more through a sense of community, whether it’s in my workouts or in my life, and I hope to do the same for others,” Jordan said in a statement shared with The Drum. “This partnership with Propel Fitness Water is a true collaboration that’s about supporting those who are actively and intentionally looking to reach their goals and grow each day. I’m eager to work together to make an impact to last for years to come.”

Embracing a female-first vibe

Jordan’s appeal to Propel goes beyond his involvement in the fitness community and his philanthropic track record.

“Jordan is known for his fitness and his appeal to women. SNL even had fun with that image during his appearance last weekend,” says Duane Stanford, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, a US-based business newsletter covering the beverages industry. “Jordan would appear to be a good fit for a brand with a female-first vibe that is all about vitality and confidence in the gym or studio.”

Plus, a broad swath of consumers are seeking immunity-boosting products post-pandemic, making it the opportune moment for an electrolyte water brand to re-engage its target audience, says Stanford.

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For the PepsiCo-owned label, the partnership with Jordan also seeks to harness the brand’s recent successes for an even stronger future. “On the heels of Propel Fitness Water’s eighth consecutive year of growth, we wanted to strengthen our position to poise ourselves for future growth,” Bhasin says.

Propel has enjoyed strong marketplace performance of late. Propel Powder has nearly tripled its retail sales dollars, according to Bhasin.

Compared with competitors such as Power Water, a Coca-Cola-owned brand that launched in early 2020, performance is especially strong. During a single nine-month period of 2022, Propel’s retail sales spiked by 15% while Power Water’s declined by 24%. Power Water owns just 1.8% of the category.

“Coca-Cola’s Power Water answer [to Propel] was stymied by a pandemic launch,” says Stanford. “Propel’s job now is to make sure it’s not easy for Coke to catch up.”

Today’s announcement marks a “new chapter for the brand,” which will include not only Jordan as a spokesperson but also a rejuvenated look, says Bhasin.

The 21-year-old brand is unveiling a refreshed visual identity that aims to breathe new life into its logo and packaging. Though the look is new, it harks back to the brand’s roots by putting the iconic Gatorade lightning bolt symbol in the heart of Propel visuals. The redesign, which will touch Propel’s entire product portfolio, began rolling out last month and is slated for completion by this summer.

Additionally, to promote its new partnership with Jordan, Propel is unveiling its first-ever limited-edition bottle design. Beginning later this month, Propel’s berry-flavored one-liter bottles will be emblazoned with an image of Jordan in Creed III, his forthcoming feature film and directorial debut. The boxing flick will hit theaters nationwide on March 3.

When asked about growing competition with established players such as Coke’s BodyArmor, Bhasin expresses confidence in Propel’s position. “Propel is backed by Gatorade science, with a 55-plus year history of studying and creating fueling solutions for the best athletes and exercisers in the world. The Propel brand has been around for over two decades and continues to innovate across both form and function.”

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