Gatorade has settled a suit brought by the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for $300,000. Becerra accused the beverage manufacturer of violating the California Consumers Legal Remedies Act after they released a free game advocating against drinking water. The game in question is the 2012 mobile game “Bolt!”, featuring Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. The game urged players to “keep your performance level high by avoiding water”. It then went on to encourage users to drink Gatorade instead. Water and Gatorade were also built into the gameplay; Gatorade helped players win the game, while touching water in-game lost players points.
Becerra stated that the game was of particular concern because it targeted children and teens. One of the stipulations of the settlement requires Gatorade to refrain from advertising in apps to audiences made up largely of children under 12. According to the settlement, if 35% or more of the market meets this criteria, the company must refrain from marketing to them. Other stipulations include a prohibition on claims that water interferes in athletic performance and a restriction on promoting Gatorade over water.
In a press release, the Attorney General’s office announced that $120,000 of the $300,000 settlement will go towards nutrition research and education.
The settlement has attracted the attention of legal experts, who say it could be a sign that companies need to avoid comparative advertising in their campaigns. In 2013, a similar suit was brought against Abbott Laboratories by New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The company claimed that children who consumed SideKicks and Sidekicks Clear were more energetic and better at sports than those who did not. In that case, Abbott settled for $25,000.
Research compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition shows that most medical professionals recommend that children abstain from sports drinks. According to their 2011 report, the committee found that habitual consumption of sports drinks among children and teens can increase their risk of weight gain and obesity.