Although eleven-year-old Rockstar Energy Drink is enjoying the largest US sales gain in the energy-drinks category, companies are scared to buy the brand because it's so incredibly risque. While it's not exactly as if mothers hide their children when passing by the shiny, star-bedecked cans of Rockstar Energy in the drink aisle, it's true that the company has partnered with Playboy and employs scantily clad women to sell products. According to the NY Post, that's not an image with which beverage executives at companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo feel comfortable associating themselves.
Michael Capellas, founder of consultant Beverage Marketing Corp., said the problem is that energy-drink companies like Rockstar can't purify themselves overnight because they've successfully built their brands on top of string bikinis, dumb innuendos, and over-the-top marketing tactics. "You can't go too far away from that positioning; [their images] involve a good deal of edginess," Capellas said. (Rockstar's website is called Rockstar69, for example. EDGY, right?)
But is Rockstar really all that scandalous? It's true that Coca-Cola tries hard to be a family brand, but PepsiCo often hires celebrities such as Sofia Vergara and Kim Kardashian to hawk their products. Sofia and Kim are considered "classier" than the girls who apply to be Rockstar models by sending in R-rated Myspace photos, but when it comes down to it, they're wearing bathing suits and selling soda while looking sexy. Perhaps the real reason Rockstar hasn't found a buyer is because, as the Post notes, energy drinks are growing so quickly right now that companies might just want to wait for them to slow down before they buy. If PepsiCo really had such a moral issue with Rockstar, would they handle all of the drink's US distribution? When it comes down to it, Rockstar is a carbonated beverage, not a porn star with a personality, and it's hard to imagine it won't get purchased eventually.