Gatorade, Powerade Trade Ad Barbs

CHICAGO Whether or not a Chicago court rules that Coca-Cola has to pull its latest Powerade ad, the spot has already succeeded in producing some of the bad-boy hype that has helped other brands get consumers’ attention.

A federal court ruling to issue or deny a temporary restraining regarding Coke’s Powerade Option commercial is expected later today.

The ad, which launched last week during NCAA March Madness, depicts the 10-calorie Powerade Option as superior to Gatorade using two Amish farmers pulling bales of hay. Gatorade has 50 calories.

“They [Gatorade] are creating a PR windfall for their competitor,” said Mark DiMassimo, CEO of DiMassimo Advertising, New York. “This wouldn’t be a story or a buzz-worthy event if it wasn’t [for] this case.”

“We will proceed with attempts to correct the inaccuracies. The bottom line is these ads are deceiving consumers about the benefits of sports drinks and the role that carbohydrate calories play,” said P.J. Sinopoli, a representative at PepsiCo-owned Gatorade. “There’s an abundance of scientific research to prove the formula in Gatorade as optimal in providing both replenishment and performance enhancement, and I’m talking 40 years of research and not just our own.”

Coke fired back, telling Brandweek, “Our ads tell the truth that Powerade Option has fewer calories than Gatorade,” said rep Dan Schafer. “They are making claims that the ads are misleading. They don’t have research that shows that. Our advertising tells the truth and we stand by it.”

Gatorade commands close to 80 percent of the sports drink category while Powerade has 18.6 percent, according to Beverage Digest, Bedford Hills, N.Y.

Gatorade spent $180 million on ads last year while Powerade spent less than $20 million, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Omnicom Group’s Element 79 in Chicago is Gatorade’s lead shop. Powerade works mainly with independent shop Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore.

The lawsuit may help both brands, said DiMassimo. “A battle tends to create interest in a category,” he said. “So the first result of this could be an advantage for both parties, for both brands.”

The performance-based sports drink category is already hot, having grown 20.2 percent in 2005 while sales of carbonated soft drinks continue have