A new battle of the Cola Wars has begun with Pepsi suing Coca-Cola over advertisements for a new version of Coca-Cola's sports drink Powerade, saying the campaign makes false claims that could hurt its popular Gatorade brand.
The ads cited in the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in New York by a Pepsi unit, are currently running in print, on billboards, in store displays and on a re-launched Web site. They say that Gatorade, which holds about an 80 per cent share of the US sports-drink market, is "missing" two key electrolytes, calcium and magnesium.
Pepsi's lawsuit claims Powerade ION4's own levels of those electrolytes represent less than 0.5 per cent of the recommended dietary intake for adults, and there is no evidence that they improve the beverage.
In its complaint, Pepsi claims Coke's advertising harms Gatorade's 44-year-old brand, especially as the image of a half-bottle of Gatorade labeled "incomplete" is juxtaposed with a "beauty shot" of Powerade ION4.
Coke's campaign "is a calculated, intentional strategy designed to falsely and viciously attack the readily identifiable market leader, Gatorade, in the hopes of unfairly gaining precious market share," Pepsi unit Stokely-Van Camp said in its complaint.
It accuses Coca-Cola of "false advertising, trademark dilution, deceptive acts and practices, injury to business reputation and unfair competition" under the US trademark law known as the Lanham Act.
"The truth is scientists say there is no evidence that Powerade ION4 is a more complete sports drink than Gatorade," a Pepsi spokesman said. Pepsi asked that the ads stop immediately, especially as "the biggest selling season for sports drinks is beginning."
Coke said the company stands behind its product and is "prepared to defend the role that Powerade plays in hydrating consumers."
Coke and Pepsi have a decades-old history of slamming each others' brands in global advertising, and waging disputes in courts over issues as diverse as antitrust and disclosure of trade secrets.