Kids, come gather round for a winding ol’ tale from the olden days. Back in the 1990s, pro athlete commercial commitments began to evolve beyond just holding up a bottle/burger/shampoo/whatever and smiling in uniform. It was a golden age, the dawn of the epic sports ad, ushered in on the back of a soaring Michael Jordan–whether it was “It’s gotta be the shoes!” or “Be Like Mike,” fans’ expectations of their heroes’ commercial viability was permanently altered. Still, no one actually believed Larry Bird and His Airness were chowing down Big Macs courtside.
In its new ad campaign, the upstart sports drink brand BodyArmor mocks what it sees as Gatorade’s lack of innovation over the years. BodyArmor boasts all natural flavors, sweeteners, and no artificial colors, in contrast to Gatorade’s artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors. And while Gatorade has long used its heritage as a point of pride and athletic bona fides–witness its recent Jordan Brand collaboration–here we see NBA stars James Harden and Kristaps Porzingas, MLB all-star Mike Trout, and WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith equate it with an aging star on the way out. The New York Knicks’ Porzingas says he was all in right away. “Kobe called me personally, told me the idea, and I loved it,” says Porzingas.
For BodyArmor CEO Mike Repole, the campaign’s primary aim is to bring attention to the fact that while sports, training, and athletes have changed dramatically over the past few decades, Gatorade’s formula is stuck in the past. “No one’s using using wood rackets in tennis anymore, or wearing leather helmets to play football,” Repole says. “But the same drink they were drinking while smoking on the sidelines is the same one that’s on the sidelines today.”
Kobe Bryant remains the company’s number-three investor and creative director. Last year, Bryant told me that the most important advertising lesson he learned was to understand the truth of what you’re trying to communicate, then speak simply and plainly. The concept of the ads is simple, the message clear: BodyArmor is the future, Gatorade is the past.