Rockstar Original (1)

It must hurt being the only top 10 brand in decline when energy drinks have made an extra £218.2m in the past year [NIQ 52 w/e 29 April 2023].

So spare a thought for Rockstar Energy, which fell 24% to £17.9m on volumes down 23.3%. Such is the decline that it has dropped behind c-store brand Boost, which grew 25.8% to £23.7m.

Part of this is down to the inevitable disruption caused by PepsiCo’s $3.85bn (£3bn) purchase of the brand in March 2022. Its new management swiftly terminated the brand’s deal with Barr soft drinks, which had managed distribution for years, at a cost of £7.6m in compensation.

Production moved over to Britvic. As the brand changed hands, some short-term distribution losses became almost inevitable.

Now the transition is over, PepsiCo argues Rockstar is through its difficult phase and heading in a new creative direction.

“The energy drinks category is an exciting, fast-growing category in which PepsiCo sees a lot of opportunity,” says Bart LaCount, VP of global brand marketing for hydration and energy.

He notes energy has “relatively low household penetration compared with other categories”, which tallies with Mintel’s finding that only 15% of Brits consume energy drinks.

This means there’s “a big opportunity to bring new consumers into the category through product innovation to meet changing trends”, LaCount continues.

One of the trends PepsiCo has identified is greater interest in products that boost mental acuity. It also reckons shoppers will go for natural flavours, different caffeine sources and lower sugar.

In response, PepsiCo has unveiled two new flavours under the Rockstar Refresh sub-brand: Strawberry Lime and Kiwi Watermelon. The aim is to attract shoppers who are put off by traditional energy drinks flavours.

It’s also enlisted an army of hip, young Gen Z influencers from the worlds of gaming, music and the creative arts to refresh the brand’s image with younger consumers.

Among the marketing efforts is the ‘Press Play’ campaign, which “celebrates the decisive, make-or-break moment between work and play, helping eliminate the post-work slump by giving consumers the ultimate energy lift”, says LaCount.

Aptly for a brand named Rockstar, this was launched in Manchester in February with musical performances from MistaJam, Raye, Tom Grennan and Ella Eyre.

“Partygoers gained access to this one-of-a-kind event after securing free tickets via Rockstar’s Instagram channel,” LaCount says.

And one future music campaign will be a tie-in with Spotify, as Rockstar offers its audience an “exclusive virtual concert” via the streaming platform.