Hot Weather Media Relations for Gatorade
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Holmes Report

Hot Weather Media Relations for Gatorade

Burson-Marsteller partnered with local American College of Emergency Physicians and National Athletic Trainer’s Association to generate media interest about heat illness and Gatorade’s role in its prevention.

Paul Holmes

This program is worthy of an award because it was successful by every measure – media coverage and sales – despite a cluttered media environment and the absence of the primary driver for these kind of results – a national heat wave.  As the Fourth of July neared without a national scorcher, we tweaked our strategy to focus on key local markets which were experiencing heat waves.  We partnered with local American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA) members to generate media interest and communicate credible messages to parents about heat illness and Gatorade’s role in its prevention.  Our media results far exceeded our goals and helped increase Gatorade sales, even without a national heat wave.
During the summer months, active adults, athletes and children are especially at risk for the dangers associated with dehydration leading to heat illness. According to the National Weather Service, from 1990 to 2000 soaring temperatures and high humidity killed more people than any other weather phenomenon – including tornadoes and hurricanes.  Nearly 500 people died from heat-related illness in 1999 alone.  And on August 16, 2000, a 15-year-old Michigan high school football player died of heat stroke right on the practice field. 
Fortunately, dehydration is 100 percent preventable by drinking the right amount of the right fluid.  Sales of beverages are primarily driven by hot weather, and we were charged with providing information about why Gatorade is the best fluid for preventing heat illness.
Our research focused on two fronts: parents and the efficacy of Gatorade.
Parents: Parents, particularly moms, were an important audience because our consumer research showed that parents make one-third of the beverage purchase decisions for their teen and tween children.  In focus groups with parents, the message that children are more susceptible to dehydration and heat illness was the most attention-grabbing and relevant fact presented.  So we focused our messages to parents on their children.
Efficacy: Scientists at the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) have been conducting research on dehydration and heat illness for years and have worked with other universities to conduct child-specific rehydration research.
The scientific research highlighted:
Most children don’t drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through sweat.
Studies show that the flavor and sodium in Gatorade encourages adults, athletes and children to drink more than plain water, so they stay better hydrated.
Media Objective: Generate at least 30 million media impressions with the following key messages in at least 75 percent of those stories:
Heat illness and dehydration are dangerous and can be life threatening to children.
Heat illness is easily prevented by drinking the right fluids.
Drinking Gatorade is the best way to prevent heat illness because of its scientifically-proven formula that replaces fluids and electrolytes lost in sweat and encourages people to drink more than they would plain water.
Business Objective: Increase Gatorade sales during the all-important summer season.
Our strategies were charged with cutting through the clutter of hot weather news stories and persuading the media to mention sports drinks and Gatorade.
Leverage relationships with credible third-party groups. 
To reach parents, we partnered with the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).  Emergency physicians treat victims of heat illness in their emergency rooms all summer long and want to get the word out on how to prevent heat illness.
To reach athletic teens and adults, we also partnered with the National Athletic Trainer’s Association (NATA), the leading allied health care association dedicated to the care of athletes.  The NATA had recently announced its position statement on fluid replacement for athletes, which included a recommendation to stay hydrated with sports drinks.
To maximize coverage among our target audiences, we developed a parent-audience-focused VNR for medical, health and fitness broadcast editors and an athlete-focused B-roll for sports broadcast editors.
ACEP VNR – described the seriousness of the risk of heat illness to children with quotes from the president of the ACEP and a pediatric emergency physician.
NATA B-roll – highlighted the new NATA fluid position stand that included recommendations that athletes use sports drinks and included quotes from athletic trainers in 10 key markets.
In the absence of a national heat wave, we tweaked our strategy by monitoring the weather in local markets and pitching the story as the weather became hot.  We offered local media-trained ACEP and/or NATA spokespeople as experts to broadcast and print media.
Mailing – we sent a press kit Heat Wave 2000 containing kid-focused materials to medical/health and fitness reporters at print and broadcast outlets.  Elements included in the mailing were:
A release describing the heightened risk of dehydration and heat illness for children
A fact sheet on the symptoms and prevention of heat illness
A graphic piece showing the amount of fluid a child can lose through sweat
The Gatorade “Playbook for Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Kids Get the Most Out of Sports”
A personalized letter from Dr. Delphis Richardson, a pediatrician in Mesa, Ariz. and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Who We Reached
By developing two relevant angles with local ties, this program was able to double Gatorade’s media results from the previous year’s hot weather efforts.
The program successfully cut though the clutter to generate more than 35 million total impressions
15.9 million TV viewers – our hot weather VNR reached 15,947,279 people through 323 stories.  Television stations in 12 of the top 15 markets used the VNR.
An additional 18.5 million impressions from the NATA B-roll with 46 stories reaching 17 of the top 20 markets (103 markets total)
Another one million consumers reached through newspaper articles
Print coverage in various newspapers including Philadelphia Inquirer, Times Picayune (New Orleans), San Antonio Express-News, The Times Union (Albany, N.Y.), Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.), The Providence Sunday Journal, the Des Moines Register
Message Quality
Much of the coverage included Gatorade’s key messages.
83% of all coverage included a quote from a key Gatorade spokesperson.
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