Monday, June 9, 2014

Gatorade Pokes fun at Lebron James then apologizes

Gatorade (a PepsiCo brand) poked fun at LeBron James -- who promotes rival Powerade (A Coca-Cola brand) -- after cramps kept James out of the final minutes of Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The brand tweeted, "Theperson cramping wasn't our client. Our athletes can take the heat." Gatorade later issued an apology, saying: "As a longtime partner of the Miami Heat, we support the entire team."

PepsiCo learned that basketball is much different from NASCAR. NASCAR fans are very loyal to favorite drivers and their sponsors. Pepsi's Mountain Dew can comfortably tease a Coke product driver without alienating Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans.

Gatorade, however, regrets going after arguably the NBA's most popular superstar. Even more so when said superstar is leading his team (who also has a Gatorade sponsorship arrangement) in the first game of the championship series.

Brands need to recognize that fans are loyal to players and teams, and because of this, will buy products they endorse. However, your brand can get hurt by knocking their rival's athlete.

Team sports aren't like auto racing, where the athletes can sometimes be seen as a traitor when they abandoned their brand. Formula One is particularly unique. A driver leaving Ferrari to race for another livery will likely leave many fans behind.

On the other hand, Gatorade and Powerade are the only two brands being talked about for free in every sports section in the country. In doing that, the two giants separate themselves from any other competitor in the wide open energy/sports drink market. Maybe their mistake wasn't so much of a mistake after all.

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