Looking Back Lets Gatorade Surge Forward


Pump It Up


Gatorade’s latest ad taps into its own advertising heritage, using the classic 90s “Be Like Mike” commercials as a springboard to encourage new athletes to stake their own claims to greatness. The ad, from TBWA\CHIAT\DAY LA mixes footage of old and new sporting legends and draws it together with a rousing voiceover from another icon, Eminem.

It’s one of a string of very strong ads Gatorade has put out in the last year, regularly coming in with high 3-Star and 4-Star scores, married to exceptional Spike Ratings and Brand Fluency. In a category where the average ad only manages 2.6-Stars, that’s a seriously strong batting average. What’s the sports drink brand doing right?

We think the secret’s in that mix of the nostalgic and the modern. Gatorade are making ads which feel like sportswear commercials – the athletic montage is a format Nike and Adidas have used for decades and it has proved its emotional impact time and again.

But there’s a nostalgic twist. A shoe company is always trying to sell its latest designs. Gatorade is selling a product its customers have known since their earliest sporting moments. Gatorade’s appeal is wrapped up with school and college sports, giving it a hotline to some of its customers’ most powerful memories.

That’s why the commercial starts with those Michael Jordan ads – the “Be Like Mike” campaign which remains the touchstone for Gatorade work. It’s why the faces and moments in the ad span the decades. And it’s why Eminem – famous for 25 years but finding a new Gen Z audience via TikTok remixes – is a great pick to voice the ad.

Reuse of old brand assets is one of the smartest things a marketer can do – brand fluency and distinctiveness are baked in, and nostalgic recognition can bring an emotional boost too. Wisely, though, Gatorade aren’t just playing the hits – the old ads are only the foundation and what the brand builds on it is a positive, modern ad which ends on a forward-looking note: greatness isn’t what you’ve done. It’s what you do next. This campaign is proof that in advertising, at least, greatness can be a mix of both.

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