Olympian Usain Bolt was used to lure kids away from water, says AG

Usain’s Other Job

In a recent settlement with the state of California, The Gatorade Company agreed to stop undermining water.

The settlement comes after an investigation by the California attorney general into “Bolt!,” a mobile app created by Gatorade in 2012. The game featured Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, whose in-game character attempts to retrieve gold coins that have been stolen by pirates. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra claimed that the game had been downloaded 2 million times and played 87 million times between 2012 and 2013. Its audience, he says, consisted overwhelmingly of young adults aged 13 to 24.

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The investigation was not an expression of California’s uncompromising anti-pirate stance. Instead, “Bolt!” got attention for another aspect of the game: fuel. Specifically, in-game Usain required fuel to run and pursue the pirates; his two fuel options were Gatorade and water. And here’s what got AG Becerra’s attention. “Gatorade portrayed its products positively while inaccurately and negatively depicting water as hindering athletic performance,” his office stated in a press release. In the game, when Bolt touched Gatorade he ran faster and his fuel increased. When he touched water, he slowed down and lost fuel. Moreover, in the game’s tutorial, Gatorade explicitly stated that the player should keep their performance level high by “avoiding water.” Becerra lashed out at Gatorade. “Making misleading statements is a violation of California law,” he said in the press release. “But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it’s morally wrong and a betrayal of trust.”

The Takeaway

The settlement was reached on Sept. 21, 2017. Gatorade will pay California $300,000-$180,000 to defray investigation costs and $120,000 to fund child and teen nutrition research and education. The company is required to disclose endorser relationships in social media messaging, and can no longer advertise in media where more than 35 percent of the audience is under age 12. Gatorade is also prohibited “from negatively depicting water in any form of advertisement.”