Body Armor’s “Upgrade” Slogan Faces FTC Hearing

UpgradeYourSportsDrinkBody Armor, the upstart sports drink brand that hopes to topple Gatorade from its long-held category leadership, may have to face an FTC hearing over its tagline, “Upgrade Your Sports Drink.” But its owners believe that a hearing may be the brand’s best chance to prove that it may really be an upgrade.

The company’s case was referred to the FTC by the National Advertising Division (NAD), a self-regulating board from the advertising industry that handles potentially false or misleading advertising and marketing claims. No hearing or review date has been set.

At the heart of the conflict is Body Armor’s “Upgrade Your Sports Drink” tagline, which the NAD believes conveys an unsupportable comparison between Body Armor and Gatorade, which initially brought the complain before the industry group in April. A decision by the NAD included recommendations that the company remove the “Upgrade” wording from marketing materials, packaging, and athlete testimonials.

But Body Armor – run by celebrated serial entrepreneurs Lance Collins and Mike Repole – is standing behind its claims that its formula is superior to Gatorade, and it plans to see the process through an FTC hearing. Nevertheless, earlier claims, that the brand offered “Superior Nutrition + Hydration” and 2 ½ times the electrolytes as “the leading sports drink,” both of which were also investigated by the NAD, have since been softened on the Body Armor web site.

Repole and the rest of Body Armor say they are interested in moving the conflict into a more formal hearing.

“We are flattered that Gatorade is acknowledging that BODYARMOR SUPERDRINK is a threat to its position as the #1 sports drink,” he told BevNET. “We have the utmost confidence that our potassium-packed sports drink, with electrolytes, vitamins and coconut water, is an upgrade over Gatorade’s 50-year-old formula.  We look forward to defending our advertising and formulation in the marketplace and in forums where we will have full due process rights.”

Body Armor has continued to grow over the past 52 weeks, with sales up more than 40 percent, according to data from IRI, a market data research company. While off a small base, that growth rate is far outpacing the category’s year-over-year growth of about 3 percent. Gatorade, which has the lion’s share of the category’s sales volume (about $4.5 billion of the category’s $5.6 billion) is about 40 times larger than Body Armor.