Gatorade offers at least three big websites: Gatorade.com, plus one for the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and one for the Gatorade Player of the Year. The brand’s main website currently opens with a landing page promoting its G Series of drinks, which cover before the game, during the event, and the cool-down period afterward.
The site opens with a black background and the word “before” strewn across the screen. Usain Bolt, the Jamaican three-time Olympic gold medalist who owns the world record for 100 meters and 200 meters, stretches his legs out on the B in full color while a black-and-white film of him running and working out runs in the background. The site shifts to Orlando Magic 6’11” center Dwight Howard going up against a tipped-over, moving “During” while black-and-white images of him in action run in the back.
At times, Serena Williams, the No. 1-ranked women’s tennis player in the world, takes the place of Howard, taking a few serves for the camera in the course of earning a few endorsement dollars.
Indeed, on its website Gatorade gives the perception it has a teeming mass of the world’s best athletes on the payroll and that is played up throughout its sites. On the main site, one of the four main links off of the front page is simply “Athletes,” which takes readers to a page that looks like it’s been ripped from the yearbook of a high school that has the most incredible athletic program in the world: baseball’s Derek Jeter, soccer’s Landon Donovan, skateboarding’s Sean Malto, volleyball’s Kerri Walsh, incredible wheelchair triathlete John Maclean, and on and on.
Click on an athlete and it takes you to short bio and an image of the player, which briefly and intriguingly moves and then freezes. There’s not a mention of Gatorade on the page but there doesn’t need to be. Drink it and you could be the next to join this throng!
Gatorade not only has been going out and signing name athletes to endorse it, the company has also been finding some of the best high school athletes in the country. This can be shown on its Player of the Year award, which notes that this year marks 25 years of Gatorade naming the best high school athletes in football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, track and field, and softball. And they’ve found some great athletes over the years that went on to play professionally, which the site smartly points out using photos of the athletes way back when. Such folks as football’s Emmitt Smith, soccer’s Claudio Reyna, basketball’s Lisa Leslie … you get the idea.
On the social web, Gatorade offers a branded YouTube channel and a healthy dose of social media with a Facebook page and two different Twitter accounts (@Gatorade and @GFFT) for Gatorade and Gatorade Free Flow, an alternative-sports traveling showcase. The company also maintains different Facebook pages for Gatorade in different countries.
Gatorade doesn’t highlight its superstar-athlete connections as much as it could on its Facebook page. Some pictures are stuffed into the Photo section of the social-networking page that has more than 728,000 fans. But its YouTube channel is all about how all those big names are benefiting from the glory of Gatorade.
One area that clearly concerns Gatorade – and really all food and drink manufacturers these days – is the value of its product nutritionally. The company attempts to answer any criticism in this regard in two different ways. In the products section of its main site, Gatorade lists all of the nutritional information for each product. It also goes out of its way to supply jargon-heavy descriptions of each product.
For example, the G2 Natural drink is described as follows: “Designed to deliver hydration to athletes during lighter competition and exercise, G2 Natural uses natural ingredients like sea salt, fruit flavors, and natural sweeteners to provide the same scientifically proven hydration benefit you get with regular G2 Thirst Quencher with only 20 calories (energy) per 8-ounce serving (vs. G with 50 calories/energy). So you can replenish lost electrolytes and help restore fluid balance, all with less than half the calories/energy of regular G Natural.” Got all that?
While the descriptions might read like a term paper being stretched out to fill out some space, what is impressive about Gatorade is its Sports Science Institute. Its Web site is stuffed with reports on hydration, sports nutrition, training and performance, youth in sports, and medical conditions and sports injuries. It even provides online coursework for the National Athletic Trainers Association. (Talk about a group Gatorade wants to feel good about its product.) Plus, it has podcasts from fitness and nutrition experts on such things as “the science of protein and exercise” and “the vital role of sodium in exercise.” Think about that the next time you’re doing 20 reps.
The one thing this brand projects through every bit of marketing that it produces digitally is that this is serious stuff. Gatorade is not fooling around, just as none of its athletes are fooling around when they step onto the playing field. So the suggestion is that if you want to be playing like a pro, you better be pouring some of these PepsiCo-backed electrolytes into your system.
If you go back to the headshots of all the celebrity-athlete endorsers, the page is filled with taut mouths and cold stares. Not a smile in the bunch. It could just as easily be a bunch of mug shots. The joy of sports isn’t the slightest bit evident there, but that’s not what this is about. This is business. Like all good marketing, Gatorade’s digital offerings are selling something intangible: the idea that even you can be like one of these unsmiling Best in the Worlds if you work hard enough.
It might not be true, of course, but at least you can both drink Gatorade.