Gatorade: Driving value from the media ecosystem

TV loves sports. In a study conducted with Eurodata, 31% of countries surveyed had a sport programme cited in their top spot for largest audience share of the year, while a further 61% had a sport programme cited in their top 10 largest audience share of the year.

As TV viewers have become increasingly accustomed to watching content whenever they want, wherever they want, sport programming goes against the norm in that broadcasters are back in the controllers’ seat and in charge of linear programming. Understandably, the majority of viewers and sports fans naturally want to watch live sporting events as they happen. This viewing also takes place out of the home (OOH) – OOH viewing accounted for 37% of viewers watching the 2017 Champions’ League final match. It is undeniable that sports and TV are intrinsically linked.

Gatorade: a case study in media

With such a close link to media, the question arises about sports brands – how are these brands benefitting from the media ecosystem? Using Gatorade as a case study, we can come to understand how partnerships are formed and how a sports brand transcends its original roots of a sports drink to become an influencer in the field in which it performs – on the field.

Gatorade is the leading sports drink in all of the Americas, a brand with a life spanning over 50 years. It is the dominant brand in the US and in Latin America, and has, in the last few years, established an aggressive campaign based on the soaring popularity of sports as audiences become more health-conscious.

Media buy-in in order to posit Gatorade moving from a hydration product into a product that enhances the performance of those competing in sport has come through in many different and unexpected ways. Gatorade, having close connections with the Champions League and other football tournaments, developed their 5v5 programme to inspire customers all around the world to play football.  In the process of doing so, original content and programming were created to follow the tournament, which garnered many audiences streaming the content online. Creating content from a 2-hour game therefore led onto weeks and months-long conversations – all the while building brand equity and awareness through direct content being streamed to engaged viewers. In addition to this, a commercial opportunity was realised through the selling of personalised football shirts featured on the streams of the football matches – adding another innovative and lucrative revenue stream to the brand.

Brand advertising in sporting events

Sporting events on television also have the unique position of the amount of limited sponsorship opportunities for any given game. The U.S. Superbowl is an excellent example of this sports marketing opportunity: only providing a very limited space which is sold at a premium, limited only to approximately 50 availabilities for advertisers. The average brand spends in the realm of $7million domestically in the U.S. to appear on the Superbowl, amounting to a potential revenue gain of around $430million for the broadcaster.

Pepsico is a key sponsor for the Superbowl however not in the traditional mainstream: Gatorade itself is actually a part of the game. Sports players consume the beverage in between breaks (of which there are plenty, as any viewer of Superbowl knows), and there is also the ‘Gatorade Dunk’ – whereby the losing team’s coach is dunked by some ice-cold Gatorade. It can be seen that the key difference between a sports brand and a network brand is that the sports brand can enable a unique relationship to advertising and some of the network, becoming a part of the proceedings. This is ultimately conducive to the sports brand then potentially putting a more horsepower behind developing products and solutions that will affect the games’ performance, which can then be traced back to why people turn on the TV to watch sporting competitions in the first place: to see athletes competing at their best.

This preludes a big opportunity for a sports brand to share the scientific research stories to a broader consumer, again widening the audience base. In Gatorade’s case specifically, this can be seen that poor hydration will equate to a less-than-stellar performance. Approached by the CBF (the Brazilian football association) at the end of 2011 in order for preparations for the 2014 World Cup, Gatorade’s research science team worked closely with the CBF in order to create a formula optimised to each of their players’ needs in order to ensure maximum hydration. The research team developed metrics – a smart bottle with a chip on the top monitoring how much of the drink had been consumed during the match, compared to the optimum consumption curve. These metrics were also linked to an iPad on which the coach could see whether the player is hydrated or not, and the subsequent effect on pitch performance. Metrics have therefore become part of Gatorade’s performance in how this has been applied to the football teams using the technology. Happily, a number of the teams now use this technology across LATAM, and it is ever-expanding.

In closing, it can definitively be derived that when sports brands work closely together with media partners it is a win-win situation all around: the ability to discover new revenue streams and open up new spaces for sponsorship adds values to both parties and stretches far wider than the remit of just the TV and the sports fan. It’s clear to see that Gatorade and all of its scientific developments is a shining example of that. 

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