TBWA\Chiat\Day, Gatorade Tell Viewers ‘You Have to Burn It to Earn It’

By Erik Oster 

TBWA\Chiat\Day launched a new digital campaign with a series of online spots starring Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper and 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns Jr.

In the spots, announcers point out an individual casually enjoying a Gatorade without breaking a sweat. Then one of the athletes pops up to make the person “burn it to earn it.” In “D Up with Karl-Anthony Towns,” for example, he slaps a man’s Gatorade out of his hand. Then he gives him a basketball and once he’s broken a sweat, and been thoroughly humiliated by the 7 foot tall Timberwolves center, he’s allowed to have his drink back.

The approach is very similar to a digital campaign from two years ago featuring Rob Belushi, Peyton Manning and Cam Newton. It’s essentially a defensive approach, staving off criticism of the company for peddling sugar water with the concept that the drink is meant for athletes who have “earned” the sugar by burning calories.

“With sugar being such a hot topic of conversation, especially in the beverage space, we wanted to talk about it head on — that our product is for athletes, the sugar is functional. It’s in there for a reason, to help fuel athletes and we are actually proud of it,” Gatorade head of consumer engagement Kenny Mitchell explained to AdAge. “We just want to make sure folks are earning it [and] we wanted to make sure that message is clear.”


It also calls to mind a bit by the late comedian Mitch Hedberg, who said, “I’m thirsty for absolutely no reason, other than the fact that liquid has not touched my lips for some time. Can I have a Gatorade too, or does that lightning bolt mean no?”

With these spots and the similarly-minded earlier effort, the brand seems to be saying that no, you can’t. That approach is at least a little unusual in that it risks alienating a segment of the brand’s audience (namely, just thirsty dudes). But then that may be taking the ads a bit too seriously.