Gatorade pays California $300K, settles anti-water complaint

Just because drought-ravaged California has spent years urging residents to conserve water doesn't mean it wants people to actually stop drinking the stuff.

When a Gatorade cellphone game suggested doing just that state Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a complaint accusing the popular thirst-quenching drink's maker of false advertising.

By Thursday — less than a day after Becerra's complaint — the issue was water under the bridge: Gatorade quickly reached a settlement in which it agreed to pay $300,000 and promised not to badmouth water. The company admitted no wrongdoing.

At issue was Gatorade's free mobile game "Bolt!," in which players help "refuel" Olympic runner Usain Bolt's race to a finish line. The sprinter picks up speed when he hits Gatorade icons and slows when he runs into water. Players are encouraged to "keep your performance high and avoid water."

The game, downloaded 30,000 times in California and 2.3 million times worldwide, is no longer available.

Becerra complained that it could lead children to make bad nutritional choices.

"Making misleading statements is a violation of California law. But making misleading statements aimed at our children is beyond unlawful, it's morally wrong and a betrayal of trust," he said in a statement.

Gatorade indicated in its own statement it has nothing against water.

"The mobile game, Bolt!, was designed to highlight the unique role and benefits of sports drinks in supporting athletic performance," company spokeswoman Katie Vidaillet said in an email. "We recognize the role water plays in overall health and wellness, and offer our consumers great options."

As part of the settlement, Gatorade agreed not to make other games that give the impression water will hinder athletic performance or that athletes only consume Gatorade and not water.

Additionally, the company promised to make "reasonable efforts" to abide by its corporate parent PepsiCo's policy ensuring responsible advertising to children and disclosure of contracts with product endorsers.

Terms of the settlement also call for putting $120,000 toward the study or promotion of childhood and teenage nutrition and consumption of water.