Gatorade took a huge step in the revitalization of its brand today by revealing a new structure for its mainstream product line, 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 this morning and on a webcast of the meeting.
Gatorade “is a formidable franchise,” said the former Nike marketing executive, who joined the PepsiCo-owned 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.”
Despite being one of PepsiCo's most profitable brands, Gatorade lost significant sales volume last year for the first time ever because of financial pressures on consumers — most of that loss, O'Hagan said, going to lower-priced carbonated soft drinks and even to tap water. Gatorade also had lost market share over the years to a proliferation of other better-for-you beverage types and products, and to its own shift in emphasis to “lifestyle” rather than hard-core athletic consumers.
Yet Gatorade was hit with a flurry of criticism early last year when it began trying to escape from its dilemma by moving the brand’s identity and packaging to a simple “G” initial and tied a new marketing campaign (above) to the change; critics said it was confusing.
In an interview this week with brandchannel, O’Hagan said that the media and marketing community misunderstood Gatorade’s strategy. “We had to reiterate to them that they weren’t the target consumer for Gatorade,” she explained. “What we were consistently seeing was that the teen athlete was the tip of the iceberg who was actually buzzing about ‘G’, and then it pushed on to athletic consumers. We actually felt confident from the minute we started that we were hitting the right consumer the way we wanted to.”
Gatorade's new product-line structure carries the “G” branding in the next logical step with the G Series. G Series 01 Prime is positioned as "pre-game fuel" and an “energy to start” beverage for consumption before athletic activity; 02 Perform drinks include the brand’s pre-existing Gatorade Thirst Quencher line and G2, a low-cal Gatorade for hydration during activities; and 03 Recover drinks include 10 to 20 grams of protein per serving to help body recovery from exertion.
The G-Series Pro line, which is to be carried exclusively in the U.S. in GNC’s 5,500 stores, uses the same functional logic. “But this is a line that has only been available to elite athletes in pro locker rooms for the last 15 years,” O’Hagan explained to analysts. “For the first time we’re choosing to commercialize them and take them to the consumer.”
Gatorade’s new outreach to hard-core athletes and fitness mavens through the venture with GNC represents "a perfect opportunity to take this product line to the elite athlete who’s looking to perform at the highest level,” said Joseph Fortunato, CEO of GNC. About 40% of GNC’s business is sports-nutrition products.
The brand’s presentation today to analysts went a long way toward answering questions about Gatorade’s future. The crucial next step: executing the new rationale so that consumers develop a thirst for Gatorade — and keep coming back.