Gatorade Created a Shop With a Secret Room Full of Tech-Driven Training Equipment

Inside the brand's SXSW activation

SXSW attendees could try their hand at some quarterback drills at Gatorade's pop-up store. Gatorade
Headshot of Katie Richards

Gatorade made its SXSW activation slightly deceptive. When attendees walk into the space they enter into the G-Store—a somewhat small pop-up shop filled to the brim with any and every possible Gatorade product you could imagine, from protein powder to classic Gatorade drinks.

Attendees are given iPads as soon as they enter the store and are asked to find products that fit in four different categories—hydration, energy, recovery and endurance—as part of an augmented reality experience. When the iPad is held up to the correct category, it displays some of the products in those categories. After unlocking all four categories, Gatorade then takes participants to the next stage of the activation.

At the back of the pop-up store, there’s a wall of refrigerators filled with different colors of Gatorade. It may look like any regular convenience store display, but when visitors pull open the doors to one of the refrigerators, they open up into a massive back room with some lovely neon lighting.

While the front of the pop-up is designed to show off the wide variety of Gatorade products, the back is all about introducing SXSW attendees to how the brand is using technology to help athletes hone their skills. Overall, the whole activation is aimed at showing people that Gatorade is more than just a hydration company.

“The G-Store SXSW pop-up is a way for us to showcase how broad the Gatorade product portfolio really is—hydration, energy, recovery, endurance products and more—with a twist. While the retail shop spotlights innovative ways Gatorade is fueling athletes, the stockroom is a competitive playground that showcases how evolving technology is fueling athletes training,” Gina Hardy, head of consumer and athlete engagement for Gatorade, said.

Tucked away in the back of the pop-up, Gatorade set up a number of tech-driven programs that are designed with athletes in mind. There’s a station for basketball players where the Handles Hero machine uses Lazer 900 to dish out ball-handling drills. The Handless Hero is used by several NBA teams as a training tool that tracks how closely the player is dribbling to the moves that are being depicted on the screen in front of them.

Additionally, Gatorade set up several VR stations (called Beat the Blitz) where attendees can strap on a headset and run some quarterback drills with guidance from Peyton Manning. Once they’ve got the basics down, participants can run the drills, hitting moving and stationary targets while also trying to dodge some oncoming blitzes. The more you miss the targets and the more you get tackled, the more dehydrated you get. When your Gatorade bottles run out of fuel, you’re out of the game.

There’s also a RE/ACT Attack station that uses an interactive LED light training system to test and improve an athlete’s reaction time, agility, speed and coordination.

“You can’t be all things to all people, so I think the key to being successful, no matter where you are, is staying authentic to your brand. Gatorade is a sports fuel company. When you come to the G-Store SXSW pop-up, you’re going to experience the different ways we fuel athletes—whether that’s G ESSNTL, our new line of products made with minimal ingredients, or new technology like Beat the Blitz,” Hardy added.

Gatorade is no stranger to SXSW. Last year, the brand had a similar tech-focused experience, but this year Gatorade took things to a new level.

“Our primary mission is the same,” Hardy explained. “Reinforce that Gatorade has a more than 50-year history of studying the best athletes in the world, in the lab and on the field, and no one knows their fueling needs better. Similar to our previous activations here, we’re demonstrating that through innovation that spans both products and tech.”

@ktjrichards Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.