Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Vitamin Water's NCAA Ruling - Blessing or Curse?

Vitamin Water has been brilliantly positioned. Water in the name to imply hydration; Vitamins for easy to accept functionality; and implied energy in the flavor names. This success has impacted brands like Gatorade (see posts below), and has opened the door for other functional products to come forward.

But Iits been an odd time for Glaceau. First the Center for Science in the public interest claims Vitamin Water is "not healthy", then the NCAA makes a ruling that 8 of VW's flavors are too functional, and may push student athletes to break the NCAA's impermissable substances code.

Proposed locker room poster from National Center for Drug Free Sport.

From Ad Age - The Rescue and Energy flavors are both banned because they contain caffeine or guarana-seed extract, according to the NCAA website. The other four beverages, B-relaxed, Vital-T, Balance and Power-C, include impermissible substances such as Taurine, L-theanine, green-tea extract and glucosamine. Other impermissible substances include various amino acids, protein powders and ginseng. An impermissible substance is not able to be provided by coaches or trainers to students, but players are able to purchase products with impermissible substances.

So, does this hurt the brand? Well at face value, this is undoubtly negative coverage. But I think this may help in the recent challenge the brand has faced. Consumers are doubting that the products are truly functional. "Is it just adult Kool Aid?" I am often asked.

If the real issue with Vitamin Water is that consumers do not believe in the ingredients/benefits the products offer, independent verification that the ingredients are present and must have an impact. This story is likely to be noticed by those target consumers who want that extra function from their drinks.

So, to back answer the original question: This coverage is a blessing in disguise...

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