Three Wins from Gatorade’s VR Campaign

In the world of sports, there have been few, if any, challengers to Gatorade’s throne that’s been built on electrolytes and a powerful marketing strategy. Powerade, Smartwater, and Vitamin Water might be alternative options to those looking to hydrate and replenish key nutrients during workouts, but none of them have been able to make even the slightest dent in the Gatorade empire. And yet, the Florida-based sports drink enterprise has gone through an interesting transition over the last decade.

Gatorade is a brand that has almost always been sold on the strength of its professional athletes’ endorsements. Peyton Manning and Michael Jordon are just a few examples of the mega-stars who have been featured in Gatorade commercials where colorful sweat drips down their faces before the iconic message of “Is it in you?” appears on the screen.

In recent years, however, brand loyalists have watched Gatorade shift its messaging. There’s a possibility that a spike in awareness of healthy eating habits have forced the brand to drop ads where neon green sweat trickles down an athlete’s face. Instead, Gatorade launched a new line of pre- and post-workout products to supplement their famous sports drink. Those too are accompanied by mega-star endorsements such as Kevin Durant, but definitively marked a shift in Gatorade’s marketing habits.

Today, Gatorade is shifting once more while still holding on to its backbone of athletic stardom. Recently, Gatorade released a commercial that utilized the familiar, new virtual reality technology and a bit of corporate social responsibility.

Let’s now breakdown the three wins from Gatorade’s newest virtual reality campaign:

  • Familiarity: What would a Gatorade commercial be without one of America’s favorite athletes? In its most recent television and online ads, Gatorade brought on Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Harper is one of the game’s top rising stars, a candidate for NL MVP, and is representative of “the next generation of athletes” at just 22-years-old. This endorsement is a win for Gatorade because it allows consistency in its marketing efforts, targets the all important millennial generation, and includes the accomplished MLB resume that older generations will respect.
  • New technology: Gatorade’s newest commercial features a team of inner-city little league baseball players wearing new virtual reality (VR) technology that puts them in Bryce Harper’s shoes in the ninth inning with the game on the line. Utilizing this new tech is a huge win for Gatorade in three respects. First, the VR system again plays to the millennials and even the youngest cohorts they might be targeting. Second, by utilizing both Samsung’s Oculus VR headset, and Beats headphones, Gatorade is pulling in powerful partners to further expand their consumer base, as Samsung and Beat loyalists will recognize. Finally, Gatorade plays up the excitement and energy of youth by handing them a piece of technology they may have never interacted with otherwise, and set up some pretty great reactions for its big reveal towards the end of the commercial; a surprise visit from Hyper himself.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility: CSR is a big deal for big brands these days, as we discussed in this recent post. However, you’re brand doesn’t necessarily need to be saving the world to take advantage of CSR in small doses, as is the case in this recent Gatorade spot. By bringing together Harper and this inner-city team, Gatorade facilitated an experience that may not have been possible otherwise. Its newest ad displays the power of sports by demonstrating how athletes can, and want to, give back to their communities. This may not have been the focus of Gatorade’s recent ad, but it’s important enough to mark this as a win for the brand.

Gatorade won big with their most recent VR campaign, but there is one more takeaway every marketer should gain from this. Even with a brand as big as Gatorade, that is internationally known, there are always new and exciting ways to engage your audience without completely abandoning your past. That might be the biggest win of all for Gatorade.