September 12, 2013

Brands We Love: Gatorade

There are few brands that can disrupt a market or industry, or create a need that consumers don’t even know they wanted in the first place. We all know the stories behind some of these brands – Apple does it regularly; Dyson and Chobani are also brands that get lumped into this category. But, a brand that is almost always overlooked as a game changer is Gatorade. Like the brands mentioned before, Gatorade created a product that, at the same time, launched a new industry: the sports drink industry.

Gatorade is a brand that has long been a staple on the sidelines of sports fields and has mastered its brand’s story and application of the brand in relevant areas. Through sponsorships, innovative sports research and athlete endorsements Gatorade has catapulted itself from a homemade concoction to a well-respected brand.

Gatorade’s History:
It may be a surprise to some, but this industry-leading drink has very humble beginnings dating back to 1965 in Gainesville, Florida, home of the Florida Gators. The original sports drink was formulated by a team of researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine, including Robert Cade, Dana Shires, Harry James Free and Alejandro de Quesada. It was created following a request from Florida Gators’ football head coach Ray Graves to aid athletes by acting as a hydrating replacement for body fluids lost during physical exertion in hot weather. The earliest versions of the beverage consisted of a mixture of water, sodium, sugar, potassium, phosphate and lemon juice. Ten players on the University of Florida football team tested the first version of Gatorade during practices and games in 1965, and the tests were deemed successful. The football team credited Gatorade as having contributed to their first Orange Bowl win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in 1967, at which point the drink gained traction within the athletic community. Yellow Jackets coach Bobby Dodd, when asked why his team lost, replied: “We didn’t have Gatorade. That made the difference.”

Gatorade’s Brand Power:
The name Gatorade has become synonymous with sports nutrition, research, elite athletes and winning championships. Gatorade has attached its name to some of the most recognizable and respected athletes such as Michael Jordan, Mia Hamm, Dwayne Wade and Peyton Manning. But perhaps one of the strongest brand ties Gatorade has with consumers is the “Gatorade dunk,” first popularized by the 1985 New York Giants. From a brand exposure standpoint, the tradition of dumping a Gatorade cooler on a winning coach’s head after a big game is the type of un-paid, highly impactful and visual exposure any brand craves, and reinforces how engrained the Gatorade brand is in American sports.

Gatorade is currently manufactured by PepsiCo and distributed in over 80 countries. Gatorade commands 46% of the worldwide sports drink market according to Euromonitor International. In 2010, Gatorade re-branded a number of its products. Original Gatorade was initially re-labeled as Gatorade G. Gatorade Rain was re-labeled as No Excuses. Gatorade AM was re-labeled Shine On; Gatorade X-Factor was relabeled as Be Tough; and Gatorade Fierce was relabeled Bring It. However these names were short-lived, as a two percent decline in market share in 2009 led to a broader repositioning of the entire line in 2010. Beginning in February 2010, the Gatorade product portfolio was re-positioned around what the company refers to as the G Series, categorizing varieties of its products into three main segments: before, during, and after athletic events.

Gatorade is one of four beverage brands on Forbes Most Powerful Brands list. Overall, Gatorade is ranked 86th on the list with a brand value of 4.8 billion. Gatorade is the only sports specific beverage on the list, and I don’t foresee another sports drink chipping away at Gatorade’s brand power, but as always it will be interesting to see where Gatorade lands next year on the annual report published by Forbes.

The Gatorade Company Fact Sheet
Gatorade’s G Force Leaves No Sweat Behind
The World’s Most Powerful Brands

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