Gatorade has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a complaint that it made misleading statements about water in a mobile video game it created to promote the beverage to teens and young adults.
In the videogame, “Bolt,” Gatorade portrayed its products positively while dissing water as a drink that hinders athletic performance, the California Attorney General says.
Specifically, during gameplay users control a cartoon character of Olympic Gold Medalist Usain Bolt to run a race to gather gold coins stolen by pirates. When a players touches a Gatorade icon, Bolt ran faster and the “fuel meter” increased. But when a player touched a droplet of water he slowed down and the meter decreased. The game’s tutorial urges players to “keep your performance level high by avoiding water.”
“Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it’s morally wrong and a betrayal of trust. It’s what causes consumers to lose faith in the products they buy,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said.
The game was promoted on social media, drawing in an audience of which more than 70 percent was aged 13 to 24. The app amassed more than 2.3 million downloads and 87 million games played worldwide in 2012 and 2013. “Bolt!” was downloaded an estimated 30,000 times in California. It is no longer available for download, the AG said.
As part of the $300,000 settlement, $120,000 will be used to fund research or education on water consumption and the nutrition of children and teenagers. In addition, the settlement requires Gatorade, a subsidiary of Pepsico, to disclose endorser relationships in any social media posts and prohibits the company from advertising its products in media where children under age 12 comprise more than 35 percent of the audience. The settlement also prohibits the company from negatively depicting water in any form of advertisement.