CHICAGO: After a brief flirtation with two Omnicom firms, Gatorade has decided to give a new PR task to its longtime agency of record Burson-Marsteller."We have a great relationship with Burson,
said Andy Horrow, director of communications for the Quaker Oats division of PepsiCo. "They are our agency of record, and that relationship isn't expected to change."
Gatorade's association with Burson predates the company's purchase by Pepsi last year. Pepsi has been consolidating communications work with Omnicom-owned agencies. Last year, it moved Gatorade's advertising from Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB) to Element 79 Partners, a new shop set up by Omnicom in September specifically to handle the business.
Pepsi brands, including Aquafina bottled water and Tropicana orange juice, were removed from FCB because of a dispute between arch-rivals Pepsi and Coca-Cola. FCB was part of True North Communications, which was purchased by Interpublic Group - which had long-standing ties with Coca-Cola.
With Pepsi hot to consolidate, Gatorade recently agreed to discuss a new PR project with Ketchum and Porter-Novelli, but on March 15, decided to go with Burson, Horrow said.
Several negative stories have run recently, detailing drops in Gatorade sales. For example, a BusinessWeek story on the Pepsi-Quaker deal was headlined "A Touch of Indigestion."
But Horrow, who assumed Gatorade's top communications spot after longtime director PJ Sinapoli left, doesn't anticipate new PR efforts to counter negative press. "Sales are back on track,
he said. "When there are reports of sinking shares and sliding market share, we don't put much stock in those."
Quaker still handles its own PR under Pepsi, with a four-person team in Chicago. Pepsi routinely lets its divisions handle PR independently.
While Horrow wouldn't detail Burson's plans for Gatorade, he said overall PR will still focus on the benefits of drinking the product. "We'll stick with what we know best,
he said. New flavors are also planned, and PR will likely will be done for those.