Food Activist Targets Gatorade Ad in New York AG Complaint

Food activist and blogger Nancy Huehnergarth has reportedly filed a complaint with the New York attorney general (AG) over a purportedly deceptive “viral advertising campaign” from 2013 featuring a mobile game that promoted Gatorade® as a performance enhancer while denigrating water as “the enemy of performance.” According to a news source, gamers using the app navigated an avatar through an obstacle course and picked up bottles of Gatorade® to increase his speed while avoiding drops of water that slowed him down.

Huehnergarth, who co-founded the New York State Healthy Eating and Physical Activity Alliance and was instrumental in getting “junk” food removed from school vending machines in her community, apparently filed the complaint because she believed the campaign provided an inaccurate message to children. “It’s preying on youth while slipping past parents who don’t necessarily police a mobile device quite as carefully as they do a computer. I think it’s chutzpah to the highest degree,” she said. Parent company PepsiCo responded in a statement, “The mobile game, Bolt! from Gatorade was designed to educate athletes about the scientifically proven concept that sport drinks can have advantages when it comes to athletic performance because they contain carbohydrates that provide fuel and electrolytes that aid in hydration.”

Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson was quoted as saying, “I think the basic strategy is to make people think they will become better athletes if they drink Gatorade, but the average consumer’s health and wallet would be better off if they stuck with water.” The game evidently won an Interactive Advertising Bureau Mixx award for mobile marketing and has been nominated for several others. It attracted some 4 million Facebook likes and was downloaded 2.3 million times. While the game is no longer available, it was reportedly played more than 83 million times; nearly three-fourths of the players were between the ages of 13 and 24. See ABCNews.com, January 9, 2014.

Read more in Issue 509 of the Food & Beverage Litigation Update