“G” is for Gulp: Juice Does Not a Champion Make

By Matt Van Hoven 

(The ad above is the latest iteration in the “G” campaign by TBWA. It employs Michael Jordan’s iconic dunk image, made from a series of back lit Gatorade bottles set on a Chicago basketball court)

News today is that Gatorade is not doing so well. According to an Adweek report, sales have slumped 17.5% in the last 6 months since the campaign was released. We’ll skip the Monday morning quarterbacking and go straight to the only point that needs to be made.


When Gatorade was invented in 1965, it was a tool for helping players recover. Like a bag of ice or tape or a jock-strap there wasn’t (and still isn’t) a perception that it won games. What Arnell and TBWA did with “G” was an admirable attempt: through the magic of advertising, they tried to force an otherwise inane product to transcend reality and become the heart of sport. But juice does not a champion make.

Like tape, jock-strap, coach, bench, grass et al, Gatorade is a component of sport. Every element of “the game” is replaceable, except the drive to win. Either you have it or you don’t, and although that doesn’t always guarantee a win it does guarantee that players who have it eventually will. Even if their victories aren’t on the field.

One recent campaign that gets this is Nike’s “Take it to the Next Level” by 72andsunny and Guy Ritchie. Watch it, then come back. Another Nike product that helps athletes get there is Plus, by R/GA. The shoes they sell even have little slots in them for that pesky iPod tracking thing. There’s no N, only components that supplement drive.

And Gatorage (which, mind you, many athletes dilute) also needs to glom on to that idea. All TBWA really needs to do is show some compelling victories, some slow motion golf swings (this Canon Rebel XSi spot). Maybe that’s not the campaign that Pepsi wanted, but if that’s the case then they too don’t understand their product and how consumers perceive it.

When I was a kid, most of the time our Gatorade water jug was filled with water. But the jug itself had just as much dirt on it our mits, pads, what have you. Being there, for kids and pros alike, is as close to G as the brand has ever come.

More: “Oh Gatorade, You’re So Not a ‘G’ Thing