Pandora Propels Gatorade’s Fitness Water Brand Back Into The Spotlight

pandoraIn the 16 years since it launched in 2001, Propel, Gatorade’s fitness-focused water brand, has slipped from top-of-mind presence for its audience to out of mind.

“Consumers would say, ‘I love Propel. I kind of forgot about it,’” said Gina Hardy, senior marketing director of Gatorade at PepsiCo.

To get its brand back in action and in front of consumers, Propel hooked up with longtime digital audio partner Pandora to target fitness enthusiasts during workouts.

“Our consumer target is a passionate exerciser – someone who works out four times a week and it's part of their life,” Hardy said. “It’s pretty obvious that a natural selection for us would be music, because music is such a critical component of getting your best workout.”

To help Propel reconnect with consumers, Pandora combined its listener data with two popular ad units: sponsored listening and sponsored stations.

Listeners in Pandora’s “fitness enthusiast” segment heard an audio ad during the times and weather conditions when they’d most likely be working out – in the morning, after work, when it’s sunny out, etc. The ad asked listeners to click an accompanying display unit to launch a sponsored workout station from Propel.

The ad unit used the gyroscope smartphone feature that measures rotational motion to allow users to rotate their phones to read additional Propel water features.

“People would add the station and go for a run, which is great because you get that cognitive connection that they’re paying attention to the product,” said Lizzie Widhelm, SVP of monetization and mid-market sales for Pandora. “We know a lot about music, and we can leverage the data we sit on to pull together stations that listeners might not be able to.”

Pandora listeners launched Propel’s custom workout station 262,000 times over four months. Users listened for 40 minutes on average.

But Propel also wanted to reach its target audience beyond workouts. By again targeting Pandora’s “fitness enthusiast” segment with dayparting and weather triggers, Pandora served a display ad that unlocked an hour of uninterrupted listening funded by Propel.

“There are many moments with Pandora when you’re not working out or running,” Widhelm said. “Those are the moments where maybe you want less interruptions from advertisers.”

For this unit, Pandora leveraged the iPhone’s accelerometer, which measures and detects screen orientation, to allow users to unlock the ad-free hour by shaking their phones four times. A banner accompanying the station earned a 4.4% click-through rate.

The campaign, which ran from April to September, increased ad awareness for Propel by 63% and purchase intent by 60%, according to Millward Brown studies. Propel didn’t measure sales lift as part of the campaign.

“This was more about tying [Propel] to our equity and association with fitness than it was about pure dollars and spend,” Hardy said. “Indirectly, it’s going to drive volume even if it doesn’t show in the tangible metrics.”

As a fitness brand, Propel sees digital audio as a core component of its media mix. It’s seen strong ROI from past activations with Pandora involving sponsored stations. Parent brand Gatorade began partnering with Pandora a few years ago.

“Working out, you’re not really doing anything else besides listening to music,” Hardy said. “You have a captive audience and there’s less noise for your brand, so you really get a good share of voice.”

Looking forward, Propel will continue to focus its branding investments on music and fitness apps, with Pandora remaining a key partner, Hardy said.

“[Streaming audio] gets a good portion of our time and budget,” she said. “You see a lot of brands infiltrating the fitness or music space that may not have such an obvious connection, whereas for us, fitness and music are so natural.”

As for Pandora, staying on the forefront of moments-based targeting, a hot selling point for streaming audio pubs, is a key part of its growth strategy.

“We're reaching families while they're cooking or in the shower through their connected home device, in the connected car and on the connected TV,” Widhelm said. “The ‘you know me’ culture is here, and when we can help advertisers connect more authentically in those moments, we see great performance.”


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