Select Page

As a long time athlete, Gatorade has always been in my life. In the 4th grade, it was the orange cooler on the sideline at my soccer games. A pouch of tangy powder and a few gallons of water turned into a lifeline during hot North Carolina summers. When I got dizzy after running track in middle school, my mom picked me up to recuperate, Gatorade in hand. “I’ll have the yellow one!” I would yell out of the car window, referring to my preferred “flavor” back when there were 2 or 3 available at most stores: orange, lemon, and red (whatever that flavor was). More recently, in college, I discovered the benefits of Gatorade as a hangover remedy, trekking to the college mart to pick up one for each of my roommates on Saturday mornings.

The brand itself has gone through many changes in my 15 years of patronage. I thought for sure that when flavors like “Ice”, “Fierce”, and “Rain” started popping up that the brand was doomed. Wasn’t this a brand for athletes? Why the fluff? Why dilute the message about Gatorade being what it really was—a performance drink? And no, I don’t want to buy the one with Tiger Woods on the side.

As explained in Jason Feifer’s article in this month’s Fast Company, the brand was indeed going through a bit of a crisis. “How Gatorade Redefined it’s Audience and a Flagging Brand” is a great read on Gatorade’s rebranding and revitalization. In 2007, sales were flatlining, and competitor Powerade gained 13%. Then Sarah Robb O’Hagan came into the picture. She left her job at Nike as a general manager to come to Gatorade in 2008. Promptly going on maternity leave, Robb O’Hagan took a few months to lay the ground work that would turn the brand around. She did things like scale back the massive TV marketing budget, instead focusing on digital advertising on niche sites that cater to athletes. “Why on earth would you spend money on Super Bowl ads when players are drinking our products during the entire game?” she asks of the ballooned TV marketing plan that was in place before her arrival. In the final phase of her plan, the high-tech Gatorade Sports Science Institute helps sponsored athletes improve body composition.

Makes sense for Robb O’Hagan, after coming from Nike, a brand that stopped just selling shoes, and began to sell fitness.

Her plan seems to be working. Gatorade’s 2011 sales exceeded $3 billion, an increase of almost 9% from a year earlier. Read the full article here. What can Gatorade’s rebranding teach us about getting branding and advertising right? Are you diluting your message?