It is always important to keep tabs on what sort of messaging the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s partners and sponsors are putting out in the public sphere. After all, while they certainly do a great job of highlighting their “health-minded” efforts to dietitians, this is merely a carefully-concocted veneer that is not always representative of what they tell the general public.
Case in point — this Civil Eats post by public health advocate Nancy Huehnergarth, which details a campaign by Gatorade (owned by Academy partner PepsiCo) that frames water as the enemy of athletic performance:
- “According to a case study video posted on the 2013 Interactive Advertising Bureau MIXX Awards Winners Gallery, bronze award-winner Gatorade took action after learning that teen athletes often choose “to drink water during practice because they thought it provided the proper hydration they needed.”
- In an effort to change hearts and minds, as well as further increase parent company PepsiCo’s enormous profits, Gatorade brand managers asked media agency OMD to drive home the following message to youth athletes: Gatorade is superior to water. The case study video goes on to describe how OMD responded cleverly, integrating Gatorade’s new anti-water message into an existing Gatorade-sponsored mobile game, called Bolt!: “We came up with an entertaining and competitive way to reinforce to teens that consuming Gatorade would help them perform better on the field and that water was the enemy of performance.”
Why does this matter? Because, disturbingly, this campaign had tremendous impact:
- “The mobile game campaign to brand water as the enemy was a rip-roaring success. According to the video, Gatorade attracted four million online fans and “a network of influential celebrities to generate buzz around the game, including Usain himself, Troy Polamalu, and Justin Bieber.”
- “The 820 million brand impressions generated, drove home the message that Gatorade helps you perform better than water.”
This is one of many examples of how the Academy’s current sponsors and partners operate in ways that do not align with the goals and mission statement of a nutrition organization meant to help the general public achieve better health.