7 Ways Gatorade Thinks Like An Athlete to Push Innovation

Gatorade is synonymous with sports innovation. Since inventing the iconic, thirst-quenching sports drink in 1965, the brand has evolved into a full-service sports science machine.

Gatorade is committed to serving athletes, whether it’s through creating devices that better understand their bodies or telling their stories in compelling ways. The brand even made history recently by becoming the first brand in a title sponsorship with the newly renamed NBA D-League, the G-League (or NBA Gatorade League).

Clios.com spoke with Clio Sports juror and Gatorade’s head of innovation and design Xavi Cortadellas, along with a few of his colleagues, to learn how Gatorade’s immersion in the world of sports has helped the brand consistently push boundaries. 

1. Aspire to the top

“We’re a brand that was born on solving an athlete’s problem, so innovation will always be central to who we are. We want to offer athletes the best solutions and products for fueling their performance, not just when they’re on the field but during recovery, when they’re looking for energy, and someday, even when they’re asleep! Over the past year, we’ve been testing and beginning to roll out Gx. It’s a customization platform that uses different technologies to provide fueling recommendations to individual athletes. We see it as a big piece of the brand’s future. We’ve done this by testing the product with some of the world’s best professional sports teams and showcasing the Gx smart cap bottle and pods to consumers via NFL stars during the past two Super Bowls. Partnering with some of the best athletes in the world has allowed us to tell the Gx story in a variety of ways.” – Xavi Cortadellas, head of innovation and design

2. Constantly look out for new plays

“We don’t just look at innovation in terms of products on shelves. For example, our team has previously collaborated with partners like Snapchat and Spotify to create interactive experiences for our audience in channels that they engage with the most in their daily lives. Snapchat has been a great partner to us over the past year; their evolution has matched up with our desire to try new things. In addition to the Grand Clio-winning Super Bowl Dunk Snapchat lens, we paid tribute to Serena Williams during the 2016 U.S. Open with an 8-bit video game, Serena Williams Match Point, where Snapchatters were given the opportunity to play Serena’s 22 Grand Slam games as Serena herself in the first multi-level Snapchat game.” – Xavi Cortadellas, head of innovation and design

3. Connect with the audience

“Our goal is to fuel the best athletes in the world, whether at the professional, collegiate or amateur levels. Excellence in sports marketing from our point of view is both identifying and executing those partnerships in an authentic manner. This integration, be it a high school girls’ basketball game or NFL game, is what and how our brand was built. We feel we’ve done our job when the consumer naturally associates Gatorade with training or competing in their chosen sport because they see it’s truly used by the best.” – Jeff Kearney, head of global sports marketing

4. Utilize teamwork to move forward 

NBA Development League To Become NBA Gatorade League

“The new [Gatorade branded G-League] partnership will provide us with unprecedented access to professional athletes and the ability to incubate product, equipment and technological innovation throughout the season. We will have the ability to collaborate with all teams, their players and their sports performance staff working directly with the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI) to help players maximize their athletic potential and on-court performance. These learnings will lead to the expansion of our product offerings, and will certainly help advance basketball and eventually could span across other sports as well.” – Jeff Kearney, head of global sports marketing

5. Embrace a never-ending season

“Innovation is at our core, and we feel a responsibility to continue providing athletes with safe, science-backed solutions to help their performance. The NBA G-League allows us the opportunity to usher in breakthrough innovation in real time, in season or out of season, working directly with the athletes, trainers, coaches and registered dietitians to gather scientific insights.” – Jeff Kearney, head of global sports marketing

6. Recognize success, then move on

“Babe Ruth famously said, 'Yesterday’s home runs don’t win today’s games.' [We go back] to an athlete’s mindset [and] approach our day-to-day work like you’d expect to see in a sports team. We had a nice 2016 [with a Grand Clio for our “Super Bowl Dunk” Snapchat activation, our “Forget Me” campaign and more] and took a brief moment to acknowledge those successes; however, we quickly turn the page and return to our mission. The Gatorade brand is committed to fueling athletes to perform at their best. It’s a privilege to help shepherd such an iconic brand, and we relish the challenge to continue pushing the envelope on how we engage and tell stories.” – Kenny Mitchell, head of consumer engagement

7. Link creativity with substance

“Gatorade wants to tell compelling stories about making a difference. Those stories can’t exist without credibility. This is why, in part, we have a dedicated athlete research facility at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Acting as our ‘proving ground,’ we have access to more than 1,000 competitive athletes, giving us opportunities to test new products, trial new technologies and incubate new service strategies. This immediate and continuous access to athletes is similar to what the NBA G-League will offer, but via professional vs. teen athletes.” – James Carter, PhD, director of GSSI

The 2017 Clio Sports Shortlist will be announced April 27th. To learn more, visit Clios.com/sports