SBJ/Nov. 8-14, 2010/This Week's Issue

Powerade’s the new player on NCAA sidelines

Powerade is taking the sales momentum it’s achieved with a bounce-back 2010 to the sidelines of the Final Four.

With sales volume up 25 percent this year after two years of decreases, Powerade will replace Vitaminwater as the sports drink on the sidelines of all 88 NCAA championships, most notably the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The reshuffling includes all NCAA divisions for Powerade.

Those sideline rights are through Coca-Cola’s 11-year corporate champion sponsorship with the NCAA.

Powerade’s red and white marks will be seen on cups, coolers, towels and drink carriers across the sidelines and bench areas at all NCAA-sanctioned events. Powerade will make its first appearance at the Division III volleyball championships this month.

“With the success and growth Powerade has enjoyed this year, we’ve definitely had our sights set on this,” said Bob Cramer, vice president of sports marketing at Powerade.

Coca-Cola’s NCAA sponsorship has produced three sideline brands in the last four years — Dasani, Vitaminwater and now Powerade — but Cramer said the intent is to keep Powerade in that position for several years to come. Glaceau’s Vitaminwater took over the NCAA sidelines in 2008 and spent two years there as Coke has shuffled through its brand portfolio to find the right fit.

Coca-Cola will continue to activate its Coke and Coke Zero brands during the NCAA championships as well.

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John Sicher, editor of Beverage Digest, said the sports drink category as a whole is up nearly 12 percent this year, with Powerade leading the way at a 25 percent sales volume increase over last year. Gatorade, the category leader, is up 15 percent.

The latest market numbers show that Gatorade retains a massive share of the sports drink category at 71.4 percent, compared to Powerade’s 27.3 percent, Sicher said, but Powerade’s share has grown by nearly three points this year.

“The category has come back very nicely after some rough years,” Sicher said. “A hot summer and an improving economy has helped.”

Powerade’s ION4 drink will be featured on the NCAA sidelines and through all of the brand’s creative. Powerade has not settled on its creative approach yet, but Cramer said the brand will launch an extensive campaign before March Madness with a full complement of media, digital and retail activation.

The NCAA joins a Powerade portfolio that includes athlete relationships with NBA stars Chris Paul and Derrick Rose, MLB’s Ryan Howard and the NFL’s Chris Johnson. Powerade also had a strong presence at the World Cup as a FIFA sponsor.

On the team side, Powerade sponsors more than 200 colleges, a dozen MLB squads and a handful of NBA teams.

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