game over

Gatorade App Warned Kids to Avoid Drinking Water Because It’s ‘the Enemy’

2.5 million people downloaded the app, most of them between 13 and 24 years old.

2.5 million people downloaded the app, most of them between 13 and 24 years old.Photo: Gatorade

In the summer of 2012, the PepsiCo-owned Gatorade released a branded gaming app with Usain Bolt called, fittingly, Bolt! The object of the game, produced by media agency OMD and developer RockLive, was to complete an obstacle course and "collect a booty of gold coins while avoiding Caribbean pirates, cannon fire, and the occasional explosion." Oh, that and also by avoiding water, Civil Eats reports, which the app helpfully identified as the "enemy of performance." Take it away, marketers.

Bolt!, which was free to download and play and has since been removed from the iTunes store, let users step into the McNugget-loving athlete's size-fourteen trainers and tear, Temple Run–style, through a Jamaican field of exploding barrels, floating crates, and treacherous drops of water. Yes, that evil water costs you points: "The integration needed to position Gatorade as the hero," the narrator of the OMD case-study video says. The company deliberately positioned the soft drink in the form of Gatorade-branded power-up tokens meant to "drive better performance and higher scores, with water as the enemy that hinders performance."

There's also the "network of influential celebrities" used to hype the message. Tapping folks like Mike Tyson, Rob Kardashian, and Bolt himself apparently paid off: The app had 2.5 million downloads and was played 87 million times. "The last app I downloaded was called Bolt," Justin Bieber says, doing his part in the name of compensated endorsements.

But whereas the Tyson plug actually came from his official Twitter account:


The same cannot be said for two of Justin Bieber's other alleged endorsements featured as screenshots in OMD's promotional video at the 1:18 minute-mark:


Someone must have worked long and hard to find the Twitter handle @JBofficialx in the sea of fake accounts that still looked real enough to fool a gaggle of 11-year-old social media users. Good job, Fake Beebs (or app developer, or PepsiCo, whoever you are). Avoid water like it's the bubonic plague and soon enough you'll beat Usain's top score!


Sure, making water the enemy in favor of a branded, sugary drink seems somewhat innocuous, if not predictable — it's a game, after all — but it's also despicable: Of those millions of users, OMD says, roughly 75 percent fall into "Gatorade's key 13-24-year-old demographic.

"More importantly though," the narrator says, "the 820 million brand impressions generated, drove home the message that Gatorade helps you perform better than water."

Water is the Enemy, Gatorade Mobile Game Tells Youth [Civil Eats]

* This post has been updated to include the Bolt! promotional video.

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