It was impossible to avoid images over the Christmas period of the utter carnage that broke out in Aldi stores when sports drink Prime Hydration went on sale. Launched as a joint venture by two of the biggest influencers in the world, KSI and Logan Paul (combined following of over 47M), the collaboration aims to ‘fill the void where great taste meets function.’ The pair have vocalised their ambition to take on some of the biggest players in the energy drinks category, such as Powerade and Gatorade.
Prime quickly became a viral sensation, fuelled in part by suspiciously limited supply, leading to online resales at heavily inflated prices. One particular retailer, Wakey Wines, came under fire from KSI himself after marketing the drink for £100 a bottle.
The pair have clearly created a sales phenomenon, one in which social media is playing a vital role. Social influencers can reach specific niche audiences, and KSI and Logan Paul have promoted Prime through content that is tailored specifically to their teenage fanbase. TikTok stunts and an affiliation with Arsenal Football Club are just two of the marketing strategies employed to add fuel to the fire.
The most effective tactic to date, however, has been their positioning of themselves as the underdog in a market previously dominated by just a handful of brands. Everyone roots for the underdog, right? In this case, that ‘everyone’ includes the entire Sidemen network – a group of YouTubers of which KSI is a member; a group with millions of followers and millions of views, all happy to support their friend and his business partner. It’s a lucrative influencer connection that negates the need for traditional advertising.
And this is where it gets tricky. It is far from unusual to find famous people engaged in advertising, but when influencers are involved it’s hard to know where entertainment ends and advertising begins. George Clooney might promote Nespresso but no one could mistake a TV advert for a film. The difference here is the ambiguity between what this seems to be and what it is.
Logan Paul and KSI want their young followers to believe that backing Prime is almost a spiritual thing for them: ‘We created Prime to showcase what happens when rivals come together as brothers and business partners.’ They haven’t set out to make money, apparently, but to illustrate the virtues of cooperation. More cynical commentators have questioned the authenticity of such messaging.
It may be easy to dismiss Prime as a playground fad that will go the same way as Pogs or the Tamagotchi. The hype will probably die down in a few months, but even if Prime’s success is fleeting, it’s a shining example of the power of social influencers to build brands at breakneck speed.