Gatorade’s advertising manager, Liz Bardetti, is anything but geek-chic. She avoids Internet get-togethers and software developers, and eschews all high-tech trade jargon. Instead, she lets Gatorade’s agency, Foote, Cone & Belding, and project shop, Mojo Unlimited, both Chicago, walk on the wired side.
“I’m a total non-techie,” Bardetti, 28, says with pride. “We have a great agency. They thoroughly understand the technical ins and outs of the Web.”
Despite her lo-fi outlook, Bardetti has been online for three years, just as long as Gatorade. The brand is considered an aggressive Web veteran among packaged goods products.
Gatorade has participated in a volley of sponsorships on such online sports enclaves as ESPN SportsZone, NFL.com, and CBS SportsLine’s Michael Jordan site. The Gatorade.com Web site has also been a crucial component of new product launches: The company built a video game for its edgy, new, younger-skewing drink, Midnight Thunder, due to be launched on its site this month. “There’s certainly a lot more interaction with a video game versus us putting an ad out there and hoping for a response,” Bardetti says.
Two years ago, Bardetti jumped to the client side when she left an account supervisor position at Bayer Bess Vanderwarker (which merged with FCB in 1996), where she worked on the Gatorade brand. She wanted her say in where the marketing dollars are spent, and she’s learned a thing or two in the process.
“Moving from the agency to the client side was a smooth transition,” she recalls. “The hardest part, I think, was understanding that you have to focus on advertising within a broader picture.”
That means Bardetti had to learn to weave the Web site and the online advertising into Gatorade’s overall branding strategy. The result has been to combine analog and digital marketing tools onto the site, ranging from video games to background information about commercial shoots. The company has also sponsored a fantasy basketball league on NBA.com, reminding active 18-to-24-year-old men–a core Internet audience–that Gatorade is all about sports and fitness.
Bardetti sees such seamless integration of audience and message as just another evolution of consumer marketing. “A lot of people find online work intimidating. But if you understand your target it’s just one more tool in your marketing toolbox,” Bardetti says.