PepsiCo is using social media to try and breathe new life into its Gatorade brand, which has suffered a three-year sales slide. The company has set up a “Mission Control” room in a converted glassed-in conference room at Gatorade headquarters in Chicago.
The staffers monitor social media posts 24 hours a day and whenever someone on Twitter or Facebook mentions the brand, it pops up on screens in the control room. The goal is to use social media to reconnect with teen athletes who have been dissing Gatorade as uncool lately.
For instance, during a recent visit by The Wall Street Journal, one Gatorade staffer jumped into a Facebook conversation to correct a poster who said Gatorade is made with high-fructose corn syrup. Another was responding to a Facebook query about when to use the company’s new protein drink.
Chief Marketing Officer Sarah Robb O’Hagan, who is leading Gatorade’s makeover knows, however, that her team has to figure out when to pipe up—and when to hang back—when someone online is talking about Gatorade.
Launched in April, it’s unclear how much impact Mission Control has had. If nothing else, however, the Gatorade team hopes its efforts will help head off potential crises like a brouhaha last year over PepsiCo’s slow response to consumer complaints that an Apple iPhone application for its Amp energy drink was sexist.
Gatorade declined to disclose how much it has spent to create and maintain Mission Control, which has four full-time people, including some from Gatorade’s ad agency.