Gatorade pours new eye-opener

September 19, 1994|By Timothy J. Mullaney | Timothy J. Mullaney,Sun Staff Writer

The folks at Gatorade think they can knock Baltimore's eyes wide open in the morning.

Baltimore is one of four test markets, all in the Northeast, for SunBolt, a new drink aimed at taking morning market share away from coffee and orange juice. It marks a departure from the sports-related market for Gatorade, as it moves to keep up in the highly segmented, hotly competitive beverage business.

"We thought the Northeast was the best first for this," Gatorade spokeswoman Patti Jo Sinopoli said, adding that the product was announced in June but is only now being marketed. "You guys move pretty fast. If we do well with it -- and we are so far -- I think that will set the stage for the rest of the nation."

Ms. Sinopoli said the Chicago-based unit of the Quaker Oats Co. is trying to invent a new category. SunBolt is designed to be a "morning energy drink," with three different carbohydrates plus caffeine (except for one non-caffeinated flavor) to keep drinkers pumped up.

While Gatorade won't quite warm to analogies to someone else's brand name, the product is sort of a better thought-out version of high-caffeine colas marketed as combination refreshments and stimulants.

"Carbohydrates are the body's main source of energy," Gatorade spokeswoman Lisa Carlson said. "The combination of the three kinds of carbohydrates is important because carbohydrates are absorbed by the body at different rates. Since these carbohydrates aren't all absorbed at the same time, it's a continuous energy boost."

Energy is the key theme behind marketing, just as much as it is behind product. To energize the new product's sales, Gatorade brought in Wellesley, Mass.-based Silverbrook Creative Corp., an agency founded by former executives of Smartfoods Inc., which made a name for its clever promotions under the name "guerrilla marketing" before Smartfoods was sold to Pepsico Inc. in the late 1980s.

"The average person sees 2,000 commercial impressions a day; he remembers three or four," Silverbrook program director Jay ,, Walden said. "It's karma, it's attitude, it's persona. That's what we're doing."

Mr. Walden said the marketing plan is geared to make sure people remember SunBolt. People who run into SunBolt product samplers are likely to encounter someone in a bright-colored uniform, driving a truck painted in SunBolt's eye-popping logo, and maybe roller-blading down the street with a small helium balloon harnessed to his shoulders.

"Even if they don't open their mouths, you get an idea of what the brand is all about," Mr. Walden said. "I would rather have three interactive encounters where people have an experience, than 12 people who walk away with a sample of the product. We need to create enough impact-full encounters that other people will carry our message."

Ms. Sinopoli said the campaign will be complemented by morning-drive radio advertising and promotions, like street surveys in which New Yorkers pick the "most energetic New Yorker." The product initially will be sold through convenience stores and food service outlets. An 11.6-ounce bottle costs 99 cents.

"They're looking at it as a morning impulse buy," said David Wellman, new products editor of Food and Beverage Marketing Magazine in Princeton, N.J. "They're trying to get a piece of the breakfast market [as] an alternative to coffee and orange juice."

"It doesn't taste that bad. It's an interesting concept," Mr. Wellman said. "My question is, is it going to attract anybody?

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