Gatorade To Pay California $300K Over Anti-Water Usain Bolt ‘Advergame’

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Gatorade has agreed to pay the state of California $300,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging the sports drink company promoted misleading and disparaging statements about water in its advertisement video game featuring Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt.

The advertising video game or ‘advergame’ was released for free in 2012. The mobile app game, Bolt, was designed to market Gatorade and instructed players to “Keep Your Performance High By Avoiding Water.”

The Gatorade Company — a subsidiary of PepsiCo — agreed Thursday to pay the state $300,000 over the statements made in the Bolt app.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra stated in the complaint filed against the company that the game was downloaded more than 2.3 million times, was played at least 87 million times worldwide, and received numerous marketing awards.

The company has agreed not to make any marketing or advertising apps that give the misleading impressions that “(a) water will hinder and/or adversely affect athletic performance; (b) consuming water in general is to be avoided in favor of consuming Gatorade; (c) athletes consume Gatorade and avoid all water consumption; and (d) water consumption in general should be avoided,” according to the settlement.

More than a third of the money paid to the state by Gatorade will go toward advancing youth nutrition in California.

“Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it’s morally wrong and a betrayal of trust,” said Becerra. “It’s what causes consumers to lose faith in the products they buy.” 

The Attorney General’s Office said sports drinks often have high sugar content and pointed to the American Heart Association, which says a 32-ounce sports drink may contain more than twice the amount of added sugar than a young person should consume in a single day.

Gatorade and PepsiCo did not immediately respond to CBS San Francsico’s request for comment on the settlement, but a Gatorade spokesperson told the Associated Press that the video game app was designed to highlight the benefits of sports drinks for athletes, and that PepsiCo provides many water options.

By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.

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