Coca-Cola created Powerade 35 years ago, and it quickly made a splash as the first sports drink sponsor at an Olympics—the 1988 Games in Seoul. But despite the fast start and the backing of the largest soft drink company in the world, Powerade has struggled to dent Gatorade’s dominance.
Coca-Cola now thinks it can become the No. 1 sports drink company within the next five years by teaming Powerade with BodyArmor, which it purchased in November 2021 at an $8 billion valuation. “We have the good fortune of having two very dynamic billion-dollar-plus brands,” Matt Dzamba, BodyArmor Sports Nutrition CMO, said in a video interview. “And I think we’re really well positioned to go after Gatorade in a big way.”
To do so, Powerade announced a new formula that includes 50% more electrolytes than Gatorade Thirst Quencher—they previously were on par—and adds vitamins C and B, which are not included in Gatorade’s flagship drink. The bottles are also getting a new look to highlight the additional electrolytes.
“Powerade has not had a lot of innovation over the years,” Devan Conness, a drinks, tobacco and cannabis research analyst at Euromonitor International, said in a video interview. “I think that this road towards highlighting better functionality makes a lot of sense because that is what the consumer wants right now.”
Powerade was folded into the BodyArmor Sports Nutrition umbrella of brands, starting with the new year. It will operate out of the Whitestone, N.Y., headquarters where Mike Repole and Lance Collins quickly built BodyArmor into a $1 billion brand after its launch in 2011. BodyArmor capitalized on an opening in the market for a healthier, lower sugar sports drink and enlisted celebrities like Kobe Bryant, Carrie Underwood, Mike Trout and James Harden to promote the brand. Many of them received equity as part of their agreements and cashed in when Coca-Cola bought the company.
Dzamba says that BodyArmor and Powerade will operate under a “separate but connected model,” with a goal of expanding market share for both brands. BodyArmor’s market share of the North American sports drinks category was 14.5% by volume in 2022, according to Euromonitor. Powerade had 14%, while Gatorade, including G Zero, maintains its lead at 69%.
The combination gives Coca-Cola more leverage with retailers when negotiating shelf space and promotional activities. “This is a dedicated focus on really bringing these two brands together to go after the [800-pound] gorilla,” Dzamba said.
Powerade will showcase its new look in a $10 million marketing campaign tied to March Madness, where it has been the official sports drink partner since 2010, except for 2019 when BodyArmor was the sponsor. It will be Powerade’s largest media spend ever. “There are very few [sports sponsorships] that reach that mainstream kind of audience,” Dzamba said. “We believe Powerade is a challenger brand and underdog brand, and there's great opportunity for those stories we tell in the context of March Madness.”