Gatorade Sledge

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (SILVER)

Client Credits: Pepsico Canada
Dave Sheedy Marketing Manager, Gatorade™
Claudia Calderon Director of Marketing – Hydration Portfolio
Executive Creative Director - Allen Oke
Creative Director - Gerald Kugler
Creative Director - Rodger Eyre
Writer – Robbie Percy
Art Director – Caitlin Gauthier
Producer - Lauren Sloan
Group Account Director - Patrick LeMoine
Account Supervisor - Andrew Harris
Account Executive – Milly Benko
OMD Canda
Praxis Strategic Public Relations Inc

Agency Credits: TBWA\Toronto

Total 1672 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):January 2015 – June 2015
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: January 5, 2015
Base Period as a Benchmark: Q1/Q2 2014

a) Overall Assessment

For 50 years, Gatorade has been a huge part of professional sport, visible on the sidelines of the biggest leagues and fuelling the greatest athletes while they compete.

Having the biggest names in sport use your product can be an inspiration for athletes, or it can lead to a belief that the product is only for the elite athletes they see in ads.

The latter was the case for Gatorade Canada when we began to see a drop in our measured KPI’s of “brand I love” and “brand for me”. With a deeper look, it was found that “everyday” athletes were feeling that Gatorade was just for the pros and not for them:


To get more “everyday” athletes in Canada to think that Gatorade was for them, the brand needed to become more relatable to all athletes, more for someone like me.


*Millward Brown Brand Health Tracker

  • Canadians Active 2+ times per week.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

In understanding the importance of the everyday athlete to our business growth, we needed to change the consumer perception that the product ‘is not for someone like me.’


The goal was to grow overall household penetration for Gatorade by increasing the KPI’s “for someone like me” and “brand I love” among active individuals who are non-competitive athletes, who increasingly believed they were not the audience for Gatorade.


If we could convince “everyday” athletes this product was right for them, we knew increased sales were around the corner.


With aggressive growth goals over the next 5 years, +6 share points were determined to be optimal for the campaign to contribute to the plan. 

c) Annual Media Budget
$200,000 - $500,000

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

Gatorade has long been known for high intensity, fast-paced commercials that glorify the professional athlete. Over the years, we’ve seen everyone from Michael Jordan to Sidney Crosby and have essentially felt the sweat pour down their faces during each spot.


The average man or woman who only participates in recreational sport or exercise may feel left out from this athlete-infatuated dynasty. Gatorade clearly needed to change this belief. 


The idea of “Win from Within,” was developed in the U.S. to target a different sort of athletic-enthusiast, one who values the way they get there as much as the overall victory. The idea is to inspire and uncover the inner drive Gatorade knows exists within all of us.


We felt the decline in ‘brand love’ and relevance for Gatorade among everyday athletes could be addressed by softening the brand communication focus on superstar-athletes– the elite, professional athletes who are synonymous with Gatorade. Moreover, we could ‘glorify’ the everyday athlete in order to put them into the same spectrum as the super-athlete. This shift from “Pro” to “Joe” athlete represented a change for both the sports drink category and Gatorade specifically.


Our insight: focus on the everyday athlete who has the unfailing commitment to sport, but who is anonymous. These athletes are in fact even nobler than the elite athlete because they are doing it for the love of sport and fitness rather than for fame and fortune.

b) Communication Strategy

The Sledge campaign was developed to show that Gatorade appreciates and understands all athletes are equal, regardless of age, gender, race or physical ability.


The idea used National Hockey League stars to surprise sledge hockey players and play them at their own game, known as sledge hockey. A physically challenged athlete is the most noble everyday athlete. They will never be rich or famous because of sport, and they will likely never be recognized for everything they overcome to participate; they do it because they love it, which is why all everyday athletes participate in sport.


After filming the whole thing, the game resulted in a documentary series called the Gatorade Sledge Hockey films, which lived on, YouTube and Facebook.


Social media and our contractual media (part of our agreements with the NHL and NHLPA allow for digital and broadcast media weight) played a key role in the amplification of the content. We wanted to play in the areas where our audience lived.

a) Media Used


b) Creative Discussion

The Gatorade Sledge Hockey story began when we asked a group of sledge hockey players if we could film them scrimmaging to showcase how the game was played. They agreed, not knowing what we actually had planned.


The idea was to surprise the sledge hockey players with high profile NHL stars including Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Scott Hartnell, Ryan Miller, Claude Giroux, and Logan Couture and have two sides play a game of sledge hockey.


One of the initial challenges was to keep our surprise from the sledge players. If the secret got out that they’d be competing with NHL athletes, word would spread quickly and the impact would be lost. Initially, we were also concerned that the NHL stars might dominate the game too much (being much larger and stronger), so we divided the NHL players to 3 per side.


This turned out to be a blessing, but for a different reason: the sledge players were, in fact, the dominant force. For all their comfort and skill on ice skates, the NHL players were novices once they got into sleds. What started out as a stunt to surprise (yes, we were able to keep it a secret) and motivate our sledge hockey players ended up doing the same thing for our NHL stars.

c) Media Discussion

With a very limited media budget, we had to be efficient in our launch plan. We had the benefit of a strong network of partners including the NHL, NHLPA, our players and contractual media with Hockey Canada.

We had an amazing opportunity to launch during one of the biggest sporting events of the hockey season, the finals of the World Junior Hockey Championships, with nearly half of Canada watching. A :30 second commercial was created to tease the first Sledge Hockey film, driving viewers to to watch it. Online, the film ended with a video link to other films in the series, creating an experience as complete (or brief) as viewers wanted.

The flood of views temporarily crashed Gatorade’s servers. Despite the downtime, word of the Gatorade Sledge Hockey films spread quickly and organically across TV, radio and social media.

A few weeks later, the next phase of the campaign brought in a second wave of support during the NHL All-Star Game. We worked with the NHL, associated NHL teams and our players to amplify via social media. The first Gatorade Sledge Hockey film also aired as documentary content for free (a $225K value) during the broadcast as well as during Hockey Night In Canada broadcast ($54K in value), generating another wave of views and shares.

Thanks to the films’ organic shares, further paid support and seeding for Gatorade Sledge Hockey was deemed unnecessary.

a) Sales/Share Results

Our Q1 2015 results were nothing short of amazing. With sales of $27MM, we surpassed our objective of growing +6 share points in the period by 2.5 pts, accounting for our largest share swing in over 12 months.



b) Consumption/ Usage Results

In Q1 2015 27% of 2x/week active Canadians endorsed Gatorade as a “brand they love," which was a 4pt increase over Q2 2014.


The KPI of “for someone like me” also increased by 4pts during the same timeframe, from 30% to 34%.



These increases are exactly what Gatorade needed to resonate with a broader audience. 

c) Other Pertinent Results

The first Gatorade Sledge Hockey film was the most shared video on YouTube Canada during the month of January.

Globally, the campaign received over 152 million earned media impressions. It was discussed on 107 blogs and 47 forums, mentioned on Twitter 2,200 times and favourited 361 times, liked on Facebook 18,662 times and shared 112,016 times.

It increased traffic to by over 2566%. On YouTube, the Gatorade Sledge Hockey films received 98.7% thumbs up. 

d) Return on Investment

Unfortunately, we are not able to show finacials, but with very minimal production and media investment (less than $500K), we were able to positively move the needle against our long-term goal. The fact that we were able to pull back our media spend and still exceed share expectations is a strong indication that the campaign was a success.   

a) General Discussion

January, typically during the World Junior Hockey Championships, is the launch period for our hockey campaign, so it wasn’t new for us to be active at this time of year.

In the past, our message was a more functional one directed specifically at our core, 16 year old AAA hockey player. This was the first time that we used a more emotional approach, geared to a broader audience.

Our first quarter (Jan-March) is typically a lower sales period than the summer months, and with no innovation scheduled to support, the Sledge campaign was to do the heavy lifting. During this period, there were also no price discounts or changes in distribution on the brand.

The strength of the insight and creative along with the detailed distribution plan were definitely key in the growth we saw during Q1 2015.  

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

Our media spend was on par with what we have traditionally invested during this timeframe. And with the organic reach the content gained, we were able to pull back some of our intended media investment.


No pricing discounts or heavy features occurred during the results period of January. Some feature price activity occurred during the launches of new skus in February and March. 

Distribution Changes:

No major changes in product distribution have been seen to date.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

There was no promotional activity during the reporting period. The brand is a premium product and we don't want to get into a price war with our competitors, as it would only take away from our brand equity. 

Other Potential Causes:

Our campaign and results period was very much in-line with what we have done in the past, and there was no more support around promotions and pricing than what we would have seen in previous years.