Propel Fitness Water today (May 11) launched its first campaign spot featuring actor-director Michael B. Jordan, a partner with the Gatorade brand since February. For its first celebrity-led TV spot in two years, Propel is going big with a strategic media buy during the summer's key sporting events spanning the NBA and WNBA to the NWSL and major tennis tournaments. The effort will run across broadcast, streaming, digital and social.
A 30-second spot features Jordan on a studio backlot made to look like a city street. As he drinks Propel and begins to run, the city moves and morphs around him, with the street becoming a treadmill and various elements becoming obstacles. Suddenly, footholds appear on parked cars and the street tilts skyward, turning into a rock-climbing wall for the actor-director to scale as he delivers the ad's tagline — "Make the world your gym" — in voice-over.
The campaign is the latest effort from a brand that has seen business double over the last six years, giving it over 40% of market share in the flavored, enhanced water category. Showcasing screen star and basketball super-fan Jordan during the heat of the NBA Playoffs is also a major move for the fitness-focused beverage.
"This is an exciting moment for the brand," said Emily Boido, senior director of marketing for PepsiCo's enhanced water brands portfolio. "It is absolutely a nod to Michael and his passion [and] it is also Propel's first media buy in this space. We know that this is a loved, watched moment in sports and [there's no] better place to be."
Along with the campaign, Propel is adding tablets to its product line in an effort to meet increased consumer demand for convenient functional hydration options. Over the past year, Propel powder has grown quickly in a space that represents the largest uptick among the wider $2.2 billion beverage enhancer segment, per PepsiCo. The tablets are featured in a special 15-second cut of the brand-focused TV spot.
The partnership with Jordan first manifested as a tie-in with "Creed III," which he directed and starred in, and the Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic, a basketball tournament Jordan helped launch that highlights programs at historically Black colleges and universities. Along with the TV spot, the partnership will continue with another purpose-driven effort, called the Propel Your City Project, that seeks to identify and support existing organizations that are already doing like-minded work in their communities.
“This is a really important phase for both Propel and Michael B. Jordan,” Boido said. “This is all about really sinking and soaking into our shared purpose which is all about driving access and driving equity in sport.”
When it announced its partnership with Jordan, the brand in February also overhauled its look in order to emphasize fitness and its connection to Gatorade.
"We really wanted to bring Gatorade to the center of Propel, to the heart of what we do," Boido said. "We have Gatorade electrolytes, we have Gatorade heritage within us and we know that our exercisers love this about our brand, so we wanted to shine a light on it."
Still, the brand evolution presented a challenge for Propel: how to boost the brand's own identity while utilizing, but not over-leveraging, the equity it gains from Gatorade.
"We launched Propel as 'how Gatorade does water,' and so we have that heritage with Gatorade at our roots and a part of our product DNA," Boido explained, noting the difference between its sports-focused Gatorade consumers and exercise-focused Propel ones. "As you think about the Gatorade brand and everything that it stands for — that heat of performance and competition — exercisers are often reaching for something a bit different."
Correction: Propel's latest ad is its first celebrity-led spot in two years, not its first ad of any kind during that period, as a previous version of this article mistakenly indicated.