Public Health Activists Seek FTC Investigation of Gatorade TV Ad

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A group of public health activists have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission suggesting that, in the case of a Gatorade TV commercial getting a lot of play this NBA playoff season, it's not such a good thing to "be Like Mike."

In a letter to the FTC commissioners dated May 8, the Yale U Rudd Center, Center for Science in Public Interest and the Public Health Advocacy Institute at Northeastern University School of Law (together, the Public Health Advocacy Institute) asked the FTC to investigate PepsiCo's ad , which features a stomach flu-stricken Michael Jordan apparently getting some help from a cup of Gatorade in his effort to play through the illness and help his team secure a win in Game Five (the "Flu" game) of the 1997 NBA finals (the Bulls won in six).

They are seeking an investigation into the "Win From Within" ad, claiming it encourages teenagers to engage in "dangerous behavior" -- playing through illness -- and creates a false sequence of events to enhance Gatorade's role in the performance and uses deceptive product imagery. In their letter, the groups write that the FTC needs to investigate whether it was actually Gatorade in that cup, or water in a Gatorade-branded cup that was "enhanced" in the ad to look like Gatorade.

The groups claim that the ad was targeted to teens, saying that over half its airings have come on teen-targeted cable nets, including Adult Swim, Teen Nick, ABC Family and MTV.

"We ask that the FTC seek relief on behalf of teen consumers to prevent further distribution of the Jordan Ad and that the FTC order PepsiCo to engage in corrective advertising that advises teens to not engage in physical activity when they have the flu or are suffering from a fever, describes the dangers of competing in sports when ill and clearly states that Gatorade is not intended to be used to enhance the athletic performance of teens who are suffering from the flu or a fever," the groups tell the FTC.

The FCC is empowered to enforce rules against false and deceptive advertising.

"We are aware of the Public Health Advocacy Institute's letter to the FTC today regarding our Michael Jordan 'Flu Game' TV commercial," said Gatorade in a statement. "We are currently reviewing the letter and can not comment at this time."

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