Marketing and PR lessons from Gatorade’s ‘advergame’ settlement

The sports drink company paid a hefty fine after messages in its app claimed that water impeded an animated athlete’s performance. It also must change its advertising practices.

Gatorade’s mobile game was clever—but it crossed the line.

On Monday, the company agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit that California filed over Gatorade’s 2012 app featuring Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. The iconic runner ran faster when hitting Gatorade icons and slowed upon encountering water droplets.

It was an attempt to reach skeptical millennials, but the lawsuit alleged that the message to users was unambiguous.

CNN reported:

The opening instructions [to the game] warn, “Keep your performance level high by avoiding water.” Instead it urges the player to “Grab Gatorade to fill your fuel meter.”

CNN reported:

Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful,” [California Attorney General Xavier] Becerra said in a statement. “It’s morally wrong and a betrayal of trust.

Critics particularly objected that the “advergame” targeted young children more than older consumers.

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