A TV ad and press ad for Powerade ION4 sports drink.
a. A TV ad, broadcast on 15 March 2011, featured several people exercising in a gym and sweating heavily, including the athlete, Jessica Ennis. A voice-over stated "New improved Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel and four of the minerals lost in sweat" and on-screen text stated "Contains carbohydrates". A bottle of the drink was shown with the chemical element icons for sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium. On-screen text stated "PREPARATION4", "DETERMINATION4", "PERSPIRATION4" and "HYDRATION4". In the final scene, the individuals were seen drinking Powerade ION4 at the end of their work-outs and the voice-over stated "Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water". An end-frame featured a bottle of the drink and text stating "KEEP SWEATING".
b. A national press ad featured a testimonial from Jessica Ennis, which stated "GOLD ISN'T THE ONLY MINERAL ON MY MIND. Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel, fluids and 4 of the minerals I lose through sweat. So it hydrates me better than water". Jessica Ennis, World and European Heptathlon Champion ... " Further text stated "KEEP SWEATING".
1. One viewer challenged whether the claim "Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water" in ad (a) was misleading and could be substantiated.
2. One reader challenged whether the claim "it hydrates me better than water" in the testimonial in ad (b) was misleading and could be substantiated.
1. Beverage Services Ltd, trading as Coca-Cola Great Britain (CCGB) believed they could fully substantiate the claim "hydrates better than water". They explained that Powerade ION4 was an isotonic sports drink aimed at individuals taking part in intense physical exercise. They said the product had been formulated and marketed in accordance with Directive 2009/39/EC relating to foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS) and guidance issued by the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF). CCGB said they also worked closely with experts in the field to ensure that their products were firmly grounded in science and that they could fully substantiate the claims they made about their products.
CCGB explained that ads (a) and (b) and their on-line marketing clearly communicated that the product was designed for those engaging in sustained, high intensity exercise and who had lost substantial quantities of water and minerals (electrolytes) through perspiration, and it was in this context that the claim "hydrates better than water" was made. They said there was a substantial body of scientific evidence which, when taken as a whole, established that for such a person, drinking an isotonic sports drink that contained water and appropriate quantities of sodium and carbohydrates, would result in him consuming a higher volume of fluid and retaining it better than if he drank plain water alone. They said that sodium and carbohydrates in the product, as well as the taste of the product, each played an important role in hydrating the body.
In particular, they explained that sodium in a sports drink helped to protect plasma volume which declined when someone was dehydrated, helped to maintain plasma concentration, reduced urine production, helped to maintain the osmotic drive to drink which resulted in greater voluntary fluid consumption, and reduced the risk of fluid-electrolyte imbalances such as hyponatraemia (i.e. dangerously low blood sodium level). They further explained that carbohydrates in a sports drink worked with sodium to help stimulate the uptake of water in the intestine. In relation to taste, they said that research had shown that drinks which were lightly sweetened and lightly flavoured tasted better than plain water and the pleasant taste encouraged the consumption of a higher volume of fluid.
CCGB explained that the normal response to high intensity exercise was a fall in blood volume. They said the ingestion of water alone caused a rapid fall in plasma sodium concentration and in plasma osmolarity. These changes reduced the stimulation to drink (i.e. thirst) and increased urine output, both of which delayed the hydration process.
They said that many studies had been carried out over the past 38 years which demonstrated the superiority of sports drinks over water in respect of hydration. They said it was appropriate to look at the totality of the evidence in this field and explained that because there was no published meta-analysis of studies in this area, reference had to be made to the individual studies. They provided some excerpts from 13 studies and reviews published between 1973 and 2010 which, they believed, demonstrated the effects of sodium, carbohydrates and taste on hydration, and therefore supported their claim that the product "hydrates better than water". They also provided letters from two experts in the field, together with the scientific dossier which was submitted to Clearcast before ad (a) was broadcast.
In relation to ad (a), Clearcast explained that a great deal of work had gone into the investigation of Powerade ION4 and its advertising claims before Clearcast and an expert on their medical advisory panel approved the ad. Clearcast provided the letter from their expert on Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine. They said the context of the claim was clearly established by the statement "Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel and 4 of the minerals lost in sweat", accompanied by on-screen text "contains carbohydrate". They said this firmly established that the product was better at hydrating than water because it replenished the body with salts and minerals lost through perspiration, whereas water did not. Clearcast referred to the exhaustive documentation provided by CCGB which they believed substantiated the claims.
2. CCGB made the same comments and provided the same substantiation in relation to ad (b).
1. & 2. Not upheld
The ASA agreed with CCGB and Clearcast that the claims were made in the context of sustained, high intensity exercise where minerals and water were lost through perspiration. We noted that ads (a) and (b) both featured the professional athlete, Jessica Ennis. Ad (a) featured Ms Ennis and other individuals doing intense and high impact workouts in a gym. It was clear that the workouts were extreme because all of the individuals featured were sweating profusely and some were seen grimacing due to the intensity of the exercise. Ad (b) also featured Ms Ennis and clearly stated that she was a professional athlete. The context was also evident from the text "Powerade ION4 replenishes fuel and four of the minerals lost in sweat" and "KEEP SWEATING" in both ads, and "PREPARATION4", "DETERMINATION4" and "PERSPIRATION4" in ad (a).
We considered the excerpts of the 13 studies provided by CCGB. All of these studies had been published in recognised journals and supported the arguments made by CCGB as to the effects of sodium, carbohydrates and taste on hydration. However, the full studies were not included in CGGB's response. We did not request further details and so did not draw definitive conclusions from these studies alone.
We also considered the three letters from the experts, including Clearcast's own expert.
One letter was from a university academic in the field of sport, exercise and health sciences. In the letter, the author described a recent study which, she explained, was under review by a recognised journal. The author explained that the aim of the study was to investigate water absorption and blood volume changes after drinking water, a 3% carbohydrate drink with added electrolytes and a 6% carbohydrate drink with added electrolytes. The study was a cross-over study involving nine healthy volunteers who, on three separate occasions, drank water or the 3% carbohydrate drink or the 6% carbohydrate drink. Blood samples were collected at regular intervals before and after the drinks had been consumed, subjective feeling questionnaires were completed at intervals throughout and subjects urinated before and after the study period. The results showed a significant increase in blood and plasma volumes after the 3% and 6% carbohydrate drinks but no change in blood and plasma volumes after water was consumed. According to the author, the results of the study illustrated one hydration benefit of carbohydrate electrolyte drinks compared to water. The author explained that when someone became dehydrated, due to exercise for example, their body water volumes, including the volume of blood in the body, were reduced, and the benefit of the carbohydrate electrolyte drinks were that they increased blood and plasma volumes whereas water did not. We considered that because we had not been provided with the actual study, and because it was under review and had not yet been published, the study was not adequate substantiation in support of the claim.
We considered the letter from the second expert who was a Professor of Sport and Exercise Nutrition and who had carried out numerous studies in this area. The author explained that there was no published meta-analysis of studies in this area and so reference had to be made to individual studies. The author discussed two studies which were not in agreement with the general consensus of the published literature and which had been referred to by one of the complainants. The author reported methodological problems with one of the studies, namely small numbers of participants and flaws in relation to the composition of the test drinks, the length of the study period and the techniques used to measure fluid absorption. He did not raise any methodological problems with the other study which had shown no difference between the sports drink and plain water on fluid retention following exercise. However, the author concluded that the study went against the general consensus of the published literature which was that sports drinks containing carbohydrate and electrolytes increased fluid retention as compared to drinking plain water after a period of dehydration. The author concluded that the majority of the published studies in this area supported the view that carbohydrate electrolyte drinks such as Powerade ION4 hydrated or rehydrated better than plain water in people who were dehydrated due to, for example, exercise or illness. The reasons being that the sports drink slowed gastric emptying, enhanced intestinal absorption and reduced urinary water loss.
We considered the letter from Clearcast's expert on Nutrition and Metabolic Medicine. The expert said that it had been demonstrated to his scientific satisfaction that replacing water was more effectively done with an isotonic solution of salt and water with some glucose in it, which was essentially the composition of a sports drink, than with plain water. He believed the claim "Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water" in ad (a) was justified. He noted that the difference would not be significant unless someone was dehydrated due to, for example, very energetic and sustained exertion. We considered that ad (a) and ad (b) both made it clear that the context in which Powerade ION4 hydrated better than water was during very energetic and sustained exertion. Clearcast's expert also noted caution in relation to the role of magnesium and calcium in rehydration and advised that no special claims be made in relation to those chemical elements. We noted that although magnesium and calcium were mentioned in ad (a), no special claims were made in relation to them and hydration.
For these reasons, we considered that CCGB had substantiated the claims "Powerade ION4 hydrates better than water" in ad (a) and "it hydrates me better than water" in ad (b) and concluded that the ads were not misleading.
We investigated ad (a) under BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.
We investigated ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Exaggeration) but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.