Drinking Gatorade for Life

By Danielle Armour

Darren Rovell has a way with words in describing the birth and journey of Gatorade. From the very first testing on Florida freshman football players all the way to raging a war with Coke and Pepsi, Rovell had me captivated. His informal tone throughout the entire book kept me interested, especially with all of the factual information. I would never guess I would have enjoyed a book written about a sports drink, but surprisingly I did.

Without the University of Florida, Gatorade would have had a lot more trouble starting and becoming nationally known. Once the media and other sports teams noticed the Gators winning games after drinking Gatorade, people got interested. After the article in the Miami Herald was written by Neil Amdur about the success of Gatorade and how the “liquid solution could be behind the success of the Gators”, the drink started to get noticed. After this article, the doctors who created Gatorade were able to spark a deal with Stokely-Van Camp. A few problems with packaging occurred, but Stokely was able to skyrocket the sales of Gatorade with the NFL.

In 1967, Stokely executives signed a yearlong deal with the NFL to be their official sports drink. Every team in the NFL had a Gatorade cooler on the side, even if they players weren’t drinking it. Not too long after, Sports Illustrated had an article praising Gatorade through Gil Rogin. One short year later, Gatorade had hit the supermarket shelves. Being on the sidelines of the NFL, being in articles of papers and being praised in magazines was great for the Gatorade brand, but nothing compares to its endorsements by prominent people. Elvis Presley had Gatorade on stage every time he performed. Coaches began getting Gatorade poured on their heads by their players after a win, and it became known as the “Gatorade bath.” In 1985, New York Giants Jim Burt had a cooler dumped on his head after beating the San Diego Chargers. The media loved this so much that it encouraged other teams to make the bath a tradition. All of these “free” endorsements were great, but getting Michael Jordon to endorse Gatorade was the best move and probably the most expensive. Gatorade beat out Coke offering Jordan a ten-year deal with $13.5 million.

With all of these endorsements, something had to hit the Gatorade train and derail it for a little while. Science has helped Gatorade tremendously through making the drink not carbonated, producing more tastes than competitors and combating the defense that drinking too much Gatorade is bad for your health. However, since science has increased, so has other ways to rehydrate athletes. Pedialyte and Rehydratle are now commonly used to help athletes. To combat this, Gatorade released “Endurace Formula” that has twice the sodium and three times the potassium. Water is also a huge competitor for Gatorade, proven by science. Many scientists have proven that Gatorade is no better than water except for the replenishment of  carbohydrates. Science has sometimes been against Gatorade, but in the end, without science, there would be no Gatorade.

Rovell also focused on nine business principles that helped Gatorade become one of the most powerful brands today. One brand that stood out to me was: packaging counts. I immediately thought of Apple and their pristine packaging. Every one knows that an Apple product comes in a white or black box. Every item in the box comes in a tightly wrapped bag with multiple boxes inside. The packaging is clean, detailed, looks expensive and noticed among everyone. Apple is a dominating figure in the technology world and follows the rule of “packaging counts” in every detail. I do not think they have a lot they could improve on, but I’m sure the designers are working on it.

The main lesson I have taken away from this book is that branding is everything. From the very beginning, the doctors and Stokely-Van Camp made impression after impression on sport teams, athletes, other colleges and the media. They made sure their name was known and never stopped pushing that Gatorade was the best. If I was ever going to invent something, I now know that I have to get endorsements and get my name out there as soon as possible. Gatorade started from nothing and is now the most prominent sports drink in the world because of branding.

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