Twitter has caused problems for billion dollar brands in the past. It’s a powerful tool with unprecedented immediacy–that’s the good part and the bad part, too. It’s hard to walk back a tweet. (@KennethCole once famously ascribed the cause of the Arab Spring uprising in Tahrir Square as a result of Egyptians learning the new spring collection was available at kennethcole.com.) When NBA titan LeBron James had to leave Game 1 of the NBA Finals last Thursday with just a few minutes left due to leg cramps, Twitter users got wet with hydration arguments. Gatorade, an innocent bystander, got baited into the conversation by a bunch of fans who basically tweeted: “If your product is so good at hydration, why is LeBron James crippled?”
LeBron James, as it happens, is a highly paid endorser of Gatorade’s rival Powerade. Gatorade felt it had to respond to the accusations. One @Gatorade response was a simple statement of fact: “This is awkward….We don’t sponsor him.” All true. But simple statements of fact tend to get lost on the Internet–it takes hyperbole and attitude to cut through the noise. So @Gatorade amp’d the dialogue: “The person cramping wasn’t our client. Our athletes can take the heat,” @Gatorade wrote. The first part (not our client) is fair enough, but that Our athletes can take the heat bit started a Twitter tussle. Gatorade apologized–one of those apologies that feels terrific, having already made its point. And Powerade-powered LeBron James was hydrated and hot in a Game 2 Miami victory on Sunday–allowing @Powerade to tweet vengefully: “There is strength in the silence. The best response is made on the court.” Sure, Gatorade must have been thinking, when you’re on the court (which James wasn’t at end of Game 1). But the @Gatorade account didn’t tweet that. So far the series are both tied 1-1–that’s Gatorade vs. Powerade and Spurs vs. Heat.