Gatorade recently released a fake, nearly unbranded video of a ball girl making a ridiculous catch at the outfield wall. Numerous versions are floating around the web and have accumulated well over 1,000,000 views in the last few weeks.
Unbranded viral ads are obviously nothing new, but what’s striking about this one is it comes several years after Gatorade’s biggest competitor, Powerade, introduced a very similar campaign – at a time when they were far less common.
Powerade’s Very Real Power campaign featured ‘real footage’ of athletes and non-athletes performing (digitally created) super-human feats of strength. You may remember Roddick sticking a serve in the clay, Lebron routinely stroking full-court treys, or Vick annihilating his receivers in practice. Non-endorsee spots included cameraman, surfer, whale, runner, and “throw it back” – an ad that’s suspiciously non-existent on the web- during which a girl in the bleachers throws a homerun ball all the way back to the catcher. Oh, and that was directed by the same guy who did the new gatorade video.
So as quickly as the web kids scream “fake” (again, a less common practice in the Powerade years), some of the crankier ad folk hustle to expose this ‘shameless reproduction’.
Personally I don’t care much that it’s a rip-off. It’s inevitable in this line of work. And the videos are very fun. To me, the bigger question here surrounds brand equity. Does Gatorade really believe they can enter Powerade’s space and come out winners? Um, I guess so.
The problem, as I see it, is time. Obviously this video is the flavor of the month. But when customers are thinking back, trying to recall these videos amongst the mind clutter, who is likely to get credit? If you’re the market leader and category pioneer, I don’t think it’s wise to even publicly acknowledge the #2 – let alone dabble in their brand territory.