Gatorade bottles

The closing of Aspire Beverage Co. led to a search for a new sports-drink provider for UW athletics, and Gatorade's bid scored the highest.

PepsiCo

The University of Wisconsin athletic department will have a new provider of sports drinks for the second time in as many years.

That appears to open the door for UW to have Gatorade branding on its sidelines this season and Pepsi drinks for sale at its concessions stands starting in 2018.

Minnesota-based Aspire Beverage Co. has closed just over a year after the company started a partnership with UW.

A UW spokesperson confirmed the end of the dealings with Aspire but said teams had enough product still on hand to use until a new company is signed. Football fall camp opens on Saturday.

Senior associate athletic director Justin Doherty said the department was in the process of securing a new sports drink partner but wouldn’t comment on contract discussions.

In May, UW issued an invitation to submit plans for carbonated soft drinks, water and isotonic sports drinks. The sports drink contract was due to start July 1 and run for six years, while a five-year soda and water deal starts July 1, 2018, when the athletic department’s existing deal with Dr Pepper Snapple Group ends.

Online records show awards were granted in June to The Gatorade Company and WP Beverages, a Madison-based Pepsi-Cola franchisee. That lets those companies, which had the best-scored bids by evaluators, negotiate contracts with UW.

Agreements need to be approved by the Board of Regents, which could call a special meeting to finalize the Gatorade deal before its next scheduled session in October.

A WP Beverages spokesperson declined to comment, and officials with Gatorade did not immediately return a message.

The athletic department’s two-year deal with Aspire, which went into effect July 1, 2016, provided UW with sports drinks and equipment as well as 10 percent of the net sales revenue of the retail product in Wisconsin.

Aspire, which started production in 2012 and listed former Badgers hockey player Ryan Suter among its investors, was labeled as a healthier sports drink alternative in a market where PepsiCo-owned Gatorade is the dominant player.

It followed Waunakee-based Badger Max Inc. as UW’s provider of sports drinks and water.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group is entering the final year of a five-year soft drinks agreement with UW that has seen Dr Pepper, 7UP and RC Cola among the beverage options at Badgers facilities.

The company, which replaced Coke at concession stands in 2013, pays UW $200,000 a year in pouring rights in addition to at least $40,000 annually in sponsorship.

Dr Pepper Snapple Group was among the other bidders for the new contracts, along with Coca-Cola, Badger Max and New Berlin distributor Webb & Gerritsen.

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.