Powerade becomes official sports drink of NCAA

NCAA officials on Monday announced a multi-year deal with Coca-Cola, making Powerade the official sports drink of the association’s 88 championship events, beginning with the Division III cross-country championships later this month.

In replacing Vitamin Water as the NCAA’s official sports drink, Powerade’s logo will be seen on cups, coolers, towels and drink carriers on sidelines and bench areas at all NCAA-sanctioned events, including during the men’s basketball tournament and Final Four in March and April.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Powerade officials hope their deal with the NCAA will help it maintain recent sales momentum. According to Beverage Digest, a trade publication covering the industry, Powerade saw sales decreases in 2008 and 2009 before bouncing back with a 25-percent so far increase this year.

Gatorade retains the biggest share of the sports drink category at 71.4 percent, according to Beverage Digest , compared to Powerade’s 27.3 percent. Powerade’s share has grown by nearly 3 percentage points this year.

Gatorade, which was developed at the University of Florida and later manufactured by Stokely-Van Camp in Indianapolis, still has deals with a number of individual NCAA schools and will retain a presence in college athletics. But when it comes to NCAA championship events, there will be no victory-celebrating Gatorade baths.

Depending on individual deals with schools and football bowl games, Gatorade could still be on the sideline of the BCS college football title game. But Powerade will be on the sideline of the NCAA-sanctioned Division I-AA, Division II and Division III football championships.

Bob Cramer, vice president of sports marketing at Powerade, said the company is building a major campaign on its NCAA relationship, with plans to launch an extensive advertising onslaught immediately prior to March Madness.

Powerade also has deals with the National Basketball Association’s Chris Paul and Derrick Rose, Major League Baseball’s Ryan Howard and the National Football League’s Chris Johnson, as well as FIFA’s World Cup, more than 200 colleges, a dozen MLB franchises and a handful of NBA teams.

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