Sports drinks are enormously popular, with sales for products such as Gatorade and Powerade continuing to soar. There is tremendous profit to be made in the electrolyte replacement market, but in order to provide the kind of value that translates to revenue, it’s important to understand the psychology of why consumers shop for sports drinks in the first place. A particular demographic and a particular need correlate to the sale of sports drinks, so the proper marketing is essential. The individuals who purchase these products are not the same people shopping for sodas and juices, but if a brand tailors its message appropriately, it may connect with an extremely valuable audience.
What are Electrolyte Replacement Drinks?
Before getting to the heart of why people shop for electrolyte replacement drinks, it’s important to establish what the term actually entails. Electrolyte replacement drinks, commonly referred to as sports drinks, serve the unique purpose of replenishing the electrolytes that are lost through rigorous physical activity, illness or any other form of rapid water loss. Electrolytes are the electrically charged substances in the human body that enable people to transfer fluids, contract muscles, and perform other vital physical processes. These substances include sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium, to name a few.
These essential electrolytes are stored within cells, and typically regulate themselves. Anyone with a reasonable diet is capable of maintaining sufficient quantities of key electrolytes from day to day, but certain events can deplete electrolytes at a rapid rate, causing an imbalance. Electrolytes are depleted with bodily fluids, so any rapid loss of fluids can create an electrolyte imbalance. Vomiting, diarrhea, intense sweating, and increased urination are just some of the processes that can result in heightened electrolyte loss, necessitating a need for electrolyte replacement.
Primary Consumers of Electrolyte Replacement Drinks
Many consumers can benefit from electrolyte replacement drinks, but from a business standpoint, one core demographic comprises the vast majority of electrolyte replacement drink business—athletes. It’s no coincidence that power players such as Gatorade expend the bulk of their advertising revenue on reaching out to the sports market. In fact, electrolyte replacement drinks themselves are commonly referred to as sports drinks, because the vast majority of revenue comes from athletes seeking optimal hydration.
Any business seeking to venture into the sports drink market should consider athletes as its primary focus. No matter how great-tasting the product happens to be, or how many consumers may benefit from the electrolytes contained within the product, the fact remains that athletes are the primary consumers of these beverages, and must be catered to accordingly. Once a brand has established its predominant market, the next step is to determine how to best connect with this unique demographic.
Advertising to Sports Enthusiasts
Athletes are seeking electrolyte replacement drinks for one primary reason: They have been told, time and time again, that these beverages are more effective than water for the purposes of rehydrating and maximizing performance in the midst of an exhausting athletic pursuit. A properly formulated sports drink serves that purpose—restoring electrolytes—while water merely provides basic hydration. This important selling point must be emphasized by any business hoping to profit from electrolyte drinks. Yes, these beverages are great for cold and flu sufferers, for pregnant women, and for anyone seeking a favorable alternative to generic juices and soft drinks, but these facts should not serve as the main selling points. True as they may be, they ignore the highly profitable sports demographic, and should therefore be emphasized only as a complement or side note to the athletic benefits.
Standing Out from the Competition
The next, and perhaps more important question is that of how to differentiate a product in an oversaturated market. The industry-leading brands have done an incredible job of establishing themselves as authorities on electrolyte replacement drinks, but that doesn’t mean smaller businesses should throw in the towel. In fact, there are ways to use the reputations of larger companies to gain leverage.
For example, the world leaders in sports drinks have been criticized through the years for using excess sugar in their products. Many sports drinks contain 30 g of sugar or more, which can contribute to sluggishness, fatigue, weight gain and long-term health problems such as diabetes. If a brand markets a low-sugar sports drink, it can capitalize on how its product provides a healthy alternative to the many unhealthy, sugar-laden products found in stores. Additionally, it’s important to look at the formulations of ingredients. Perhaps a product is richer in essential electrolytes, or formulated with important vitamins not found in alternative beverages. In order to compete with the sports drinks giants, many smaller companies have emphasized healthier ingredients and formulations to gain a competitive edge, and these are the details a brand must highlight in its marketing. Companies should identify what sets their product apart, and use it to their advantage.
Experience the Benefits of Electrolyte Replacement Drinks
Now is the perfect time for a brand to add sports drinks to its inventory. Americans spend more than $1 billion dollars per year on electrolyte replacement drinks, and revenue continues to grow each year. As consumers become more health-conscious—and increasingly skeptical about soft drinks and high-sugar juices—electrolyte replacement drinks absorb higher percentages of the market share. Coupled with an effective marketing strategy, any business can profit enormously from the potential of a high-quality sports drink.
Andrew Hoffman ([email protected], twitter.com/andrewhoffman99 ) is a freelance writer and journalist from Los Angeles, who has written on behalf of a range of clients including the Livestrong Network, Demand Media and Vitalyte. In addition to writing on various topics of interest (including nutrition and physical fitness), he enjoys working out, surfing in Santa Monica, and collecting classic, first-edition novels.