Classic campaign #3

Gatorade Snaps its way into Super Bowl folklore


In this series, we revisit some of our all-time favourite advertising campaigns to explore what made them brilliant then, and what lessons they can offer today. Campaign number 3 shows how Gatorade used social to cement their place in Super Bowl history.

The Olympics, the World Cup, Wimbledon and the Super Bowl are sporting events watched by millions around the world. And with that sort of engaged audience, brands will shell out big to capture the attention (and pockets) of fans.

Of course, there are many ‘classic’ examples of brands endorsing sporting events – Rolex at Wimbledon quickly springs to mind. But Wimbledon is such a muted affair for brands. Rolex doesn’t compete for ad space, and it’s free of clutter from other brands.

So let’s “go long” and head across the pond to the Super Bowl – a hot mess of brands vying for attention. How do you make a brand stand out from all that bright light, colour and noise? And how can a brand make the most of its space / commercial / stadium sponsor / official partnership (delete as appropriate) opportunities?

Let’s see how sports drink brand Gatorade did it – and nailed it.

The Gatorade Dunk

Anyone who’s stayed up late (in the UK) to watch the Super Bowl will know that Gatorade is entrenched in the zeitgeist of the event. So much so it’s become part of US pop culture.

But the Gatorade Dunk, or ‘Shower’, as it’s called, wasn’t orchestrated through high level strategic thinking. It just, well, happened.

The Super Bowl of 1985 was the moment that New York Giants player Jim Burt picked up a barrel full of liquid and poured it over coach Bill Parcells to celebrate their win over Washington Redskins.

What resulted was a moment in history that went on to become a tradition – to shower teammates in an act of celebration. Although the barrels have been sponsored by a myriad of brands, Gatorade was the one on display that day.

And with that, the Gatorade Dunk was born.

Keeping up with tradition

Gatorade’s initial reaction didn’t result in a massive marketing push. The drinks brand sent a tongue-in-cheek letter, along with a $1,000 gift card to coach Bill Parcells to compensate for his dry-cleaning bill.

Three decades on, the tradition was given a new lease of life. Snapchat was the chosen platform to give the iconic show of celebration a makeover. Using the social media app’s AR lens (you know the puppy dog ears with the tongue people use) to allow users to ‘shower’ themselves with the Gatorade bucket – digitally speaking of course – and share with friends.

serena-snapchat-GIF-social-media-sports marketing campaign

Celebrities joined, such as Kate Hudson and Serena Williams, pictured

In terms of sheer reach, the brand campaign was seen by more people than the Super Bowl itself. Other numbers were equally impressive, and it collected a Cannes Lion along the way.

It was Gatorade’s decision to dunk itself headfirst into Snapchat that was most interesting. An app which was relatively new and with most of its users not even born for the first Gatorade dunk.

Snapchat afforded the drinks brand to engage with a key consumer audience, generate hype during Super Bowl within a space where it’s competition wasn’t. Its message could have been lost among the noise, but it gave people a chance to engage with the brand, not just see or hear it, but to ‘feel’ it, share it and react. Audiences weren’t mere spectators, they were right there being showered like sporting heroes.

It created a brand story that celebrated love for the Dunk and Gatorade’s affiliation with the Super Bowl. Not too shabby for a campaign made up of a simple animated image.

Context is Everything

Gatorade’s careful consideration of platform and execution created something that was genuinely innovative – at a time when brands were (and still are) wary of Snapchat.

But its context can’t be overlooked. Gatorade already has a page in Super Bowl history. You only need to look at recent examples. The reaction to Angry Birds, a brand with no previous sporting heritage, becoming the sleeve sponsor of Everton Football Club drew ridicule from gaming and sporting communities alike

So what makes this ad a classic? The campaign itself technically isn’t (not yet anyway), but it managed to take a much-loved tradition and bring it into present day effortlessly. Few brands can authentically use pop culture moments to promote its product – I’m looking at you Pepsi 2017 (oddly enough both owned by PepsiCo) – but one Snapchat lens later, Gatorade joins the elite ranks of iconic pop-culture brands.


To see our work in the FMCG, food, retail, health and wellness sectors, click here for case studies on how we’ve helped The Co-op, Atkins, Midcounties Co-op, Wagamama and many more.

Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more, give us a call on 0161 831 0831 and ask for Nicola or get in touch at

Also published on Medium.

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