PR Success Story: Third-Party Endorsement Earns Gatorade International Acclaim and a Place in Sporting History
Considered to be the definitive sports drink for all major athletes, Gatorade’s march to international brand recognition saw it begin its life in Florida as a regionally based drink, with little of the scientific research backing its claims that it enjoys today. The product’s launch came at a time when general public belief was that any liquid ingestion during physical activity caused cramps and nausea. Despite this common misconception, a growing number – including University of Florida Gator football coach Ray Graves – began to recognize the need to somehow replenish energy and endurance lost through an athlete’s perfusing sweat. The answer, an electrolyte-infused concoction developed by UF’s College of Medicine, showed promising results in restoring the body’s chemical balance. The challenge, however, as with all new ideas, would be to gain wider public recognition and acceptance.
Gatorade’s watershed moment came in 1965, when the Gators’ unmatched endurance on the field led them to be dubbed the “second-half team.” During an Orange Bowl game with Georgia Tech in which the Gators trounced the opposition during the second half (8-2), Georgia’s coach would famously go down as saying, “ We didn’t have Gatorade. That made all the difference.” That statement alone soon propelled the Gatorade brand to coverage in publications such as Sports Illustrated Magazine and The Miami Herald. Thanks to a third-party endorsement, media outlets around the country increasingly began catching the Gatorade craze and attributing the success of the Gators to the ingenuity of the rehydrating sports drink.
The cultural phenomenon that has surrounded Gatorade has only increased since its fateful rise to sports-drink prominence during the 1965 Orange Bowl. In today’s sporting world, what team victory is complete without dousing the winning coach in a “Gatorade shower?” As a result of the publicity it has enjoyed, Gatorade’s continued success included becoming the official drink of the NFL, then holding the same title for the NBA, NASCAR and many others. Its entrenched position as the favored sports drink of choice (largely thanks to third-party endorsement), has ensured Gatorade retains the lion’s share of its industry with little to worry about from competitors for the foreseeable future.