Lucozade Sport ad campaign banned for claiming drink hydrates better than water

Advertising Standards Authority said ads failed to make it clear benefits would only be achieved during periods of prolonged exercise

A multimillion-pound advertising campaign for the fizzy energy drink Lucozade Sport has been banned for claiming that it hydrates better than water.

The makers of Lucozade Sport had made the claim as a central part of their £9 million marketing drive and used a glamorous line-up of athletes like the Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale.

"Lucozade Sport gives you the electrolytes and carbohydrates you need, hydrating you, fuelling you better than water," according to the advert.

But the campaign drew 63 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), including one from the National Hydration Council, challenging whether the claim by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) broke advertising rules.

GSK said Lucozade Sport was a carbohydrate-electrolyte solution and that two health claims for such solutions had been authorised by the European Union after a scientific assessment undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority.

GSK said their claim was consistent with the authorised claim "carbohydrate-electrolyte solutions enhance the absorption of water during physical exercise".

The company also said the claim was authorised under EU regulations, as well as the Department of Health's guidance on "general principles on flexibility of wording for health claims."

But the ASA said the "hydrates and fuels you better than water" claim did not appear on the list of EU authorised health claims relating to "carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks" and that the wording of the claims failed to make it clear that the benefits of the drink would only be achieved during periods of prolonged exercise.

The ASA said in a statement: "Even if we had accepted that 'fuels' was an acceptable rewording of the authorised claim 'contributes to the maintenance of endurance performance during prolonged endurance exercise', we noted that that claim did not make any comparison with water, and we therefore considered that it would not have been acceptable for GSK to state that the product 'fuels ... better than water'."

National Hydration Council general manager Kinvara Carey said: "There is already much confusion over the role of sports drinks and for the majority of people participating in exercise and sporting activities, water is all that is needed for effective hydration."

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Lucozade was invented in 1927 by the British chemist William Owen, who wanted to produce a drink that would be a cheap and effective source of energy for the ill. It was originally called Glucozade and renamed Lucozade in 1929.

In September last year GSK sold Lucozade and Ribena to the Japanese conglomerate Suntory for £1.35 billion.