As author of a book about the history of Gatorade , I know that when there's a product that even remotely competes with Gatorade, that product has a hard time marketing itself. That's because the folks at Gatorade have smartly locked up almost every avenue. Case in point, there's a new product called Enlyten Sports Strips.
It seems like a good idea. It's basically electrolytes on one of those cool strips you put into your mouth. Company officials claim that it delivers sodium and potassium to the athlete quicker than Gatorade does because it enters the bloodstream through the mouth. They say it's a faster and more effective than going through the stomach.
Anyway, Enlyten's president is Dan Kelly, brother of Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly. Enlyten placed an ad in the Buffalo Bills game program calling itself the official electrolyte strip of the Bills. According to my sources, Gatorade wasn't happy about this and voiced their opinion with the league, saying that they own the official electrolyte replacement designation with all of the league's teams.
Sure enough, earlier this week, the NFL sent a letter to all club marketing officials saying that Enlyten could not be an official sponsor of any team. The only thing the company could do was take out advertising, but that it would not have the use of the NFL shield or any of the team logos.
For a company that's trying to get the word out about their product, their job just got a whole lot tougher. As they prepare to go into Sports Authority stores across the nation in the next couple weeks--three cassettes of 18 strips sell in a pouch for $10--they are faced with being more creative.
As far as the science of it all, there are obviously conflicting interests at work. Scientists at Duke said that IV's of its football players decreased by 75 percent by using Enlyten. Dr. C.T. Moorman, who has some serious credentials at director of Duke Sports Medicine Center, was so impressed he agreed to become chairman of the company's sports advisory council.
For their part, Gatorade officials say that athletes also need liquid and carbs (the liquid part the folks at Enlyten don't deny) and they also say "there is no published evidence that electrolytes absorbed through the cheek and gum that bypass the gastrointestinal system are applicable."
Moorman is working on a study now that could prove differently. I'm fine with Gatorade's stance right now, but obviously if studies in the future prove that strips work, they are going to wind up buying Enlyten in a couple years.
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