California Fines Gatorade for Anti Water Campaign

It was announced in a recent settlement that Gatorade made misleading "anti-water statements" while promoting its sports drinks in a video game played by teenagers. In doing this, Gatorade violated state consumer-protection laws by negatively portraying water in a mobile app that was downloaded by over 2 million users. In the free mobile app, the likeness of the Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt, encourages users to keep their performance level high by avoiding water and using Gatorade to fill their fuel meter.

The settlement was a $300,000 fine and Gatorade is banned from negatively depicting water in any type of advertising. The video game is now no longer available. A portion of the fine will go towards research on water consumption and nutritional health. Gatorade is also prohibited from advertising in media where children under 12 comprise over 35 percent of the audience.

Comments from Allen:  I have a problem here.  Let me begin with the origin of Gatorade. 

Researchers at the University of Florida invented the first incarnation of this drink in 1965, and chose to call it Gator-Aid.  The purpose of the drink was to replace fluids lost during exercise, primarily water, sodium and electrolytes.  It was believed to be effective, although the name was changed to "Gatorade" because the company could not sufficiently prove a medicinal benefit to satisfy the FDA.  Rather than be misleading, the new name identified the product merely as a drink. 

From the beginning, however, Gatorade was marketed as replenishing bodily fluids better than water, and there is some truth to that.  

Further, water is not an energy drink; it is just plain water.  

Pepsico has the right to make truthful statements about its product Gatorade, and has a right to compete against its rivals who sell bottled water.  It also has the right to obtain celebrity endorsements by superstars like Usain Bolt.  

It also has the right to make and sell games.

I do not see a law violation here. I see regulators concerned that Gatorade is targeting youth in a clever advertising campaign, encouraging them to drink Gatorade instead of water, because a Usain Bolt cartoon character wins when you have him choose Gatorade over water.  

Just because a regulator does not like a practice does not make it illegal.  I see this as a regulatory overreach.  As evidence of this, the Gatorade fine is to be used for a promo campaign for water.  

Give me a break.  How many teens do you know who don't know water is good to drink if you are thirsty?

Besides, California should have thanked Gatorade.  If it's campaign were successful, maybe it could have alleviated California's chronic water shortage.


Allen Browning is an attorney in Idaho Falls, Idaho who handles personal injury and criminal defense. He has over 30 years of experience and handled thousands of cases. Allen handles cases from all over Idaho. Call (208) 542-2700 to set up a free consultation if you are facing legal trouble or you have been involved in an accident.

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