Gatorade for years has dominated the sports drink category. The product itself was the stuff of legends. The brand became an icon. Who can forget “Be like mike?” It’s orange lightning bolt is instantly recognizable. Decades of research, including a sports science institute, studied its effectiveness. Even it’s origin, as chronicled in this commercial, lent credibility to the product.
Why would a brand this strong risk reintroducing itself as “G”? Why would it change its formula to include vitamins? Why would it retool its entire line to feature odd text like “bring it” and ditch almost all graphics?
The answer in short is that it is now reacting to an emerging competitor, vitamin water. While I don’t have data to support this, I have to imagine that the distribution force of Coke combined with their brand endorsements have started to take significant market share.
Gatorade is now starting to look and act a lot like their #2 competitor, and that might be a really bad move.
Moves like this are the “rock and a hard place” for brands. If they do nothing, vitaminwater will continue to steal their share. If they change, they lose much of the advantage they held with their brand heritage. The normal strategy here is to innovate, but line extensions like Propel and G2 seem only moderately well adopted.
I do think the Gatorade team has done one very significant innovation they have failed to leverage, at least to my knowledge. They launched a line for performance athletes called Gatorade Elite. Done right, this could be a “halo” that could further their reputation as the experts in serving athletes. Done wrong, it will collect dust on the shelves at Gold’s Gym. I’m far from the target here, so I don’t know much about distribution. In fact the first I had heard about it was in researching this post.
We all wanted to be like mike, so why not take that to the next level with Gatorade Elite?