CASSIES Silver: Gatorade’s sledge hockey surprise

The sports drink brand connects with the everyday athlete.

This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Silver: Events, Seasonal and Short-Term

Situation Analysis:

For 50 years, Gatorade had been a huge part of professional sports, fuelling athletes while they competed. However, “everyday” athletes were feeling that Gatorade was just for the pros and not for them, evidenced by declines in the key measures of “brand I love” and “brand for me.” The brand needed to become more relatable to active individuals who were non-competitive athletes and who increasingly believed they were not the audience for Gatorade.

Insight & Strategy:

While the brand communication focus on superstar-athletes could be softened, a bigger switch was needed, from “Pro” to “Joe” athlete, one who valued the way they got there as much as the overall victory. Everyday, but anonymous, athletes who had an unfailing commitment to sport are even nobler than the elite athlete because they do it for the love of sport and fitness rather than for fame and fortune. Gatorade could be shown to appreciate and understand that all athletes are equal, regardless of age, gender, race or physical ability.


Launching in January 2015 and supported by a $200,000 to $500,000 national spend, the “Gatorade Sledge Hockey Story” used National Hockey League stars to surprise sledge hockey players and play them at their own game. The resulting films were hosted on while social (YouTube, Facebook) and contractual media (NHL, NHLPA, Hockey Canada) amplified the content. The campaign was launched during the finals of the World Junior Hockey Championships with a 30-second commercial driving viewers to to watch the films. Phase two aired during the NHL All-Star Game, after which media spend was cut back due to the success of viral sharing.


Sales grew by 12% during Q1 2015 to $27 million, surpassing the +6% share points objective by 2.5 points and providing the brand’s largest share swing in over 12 months. During the same period, 27% of twice-a-week active Canadians endorsed Gatorade as a “brand they love,” a four-point increase over Q2 2014. The KPI of “for someone like me” also increased during the same timeframe, from 30% to 34%. 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. Traffic to leapt by over 2,566% while on YouTube, the Gatorade Sledge Hockey films received a 98.7% thumbs up rating.

Cause & Effect:

During the first quarter (January to March 2015), typically a lower sales period for Gatorade than the summer months, there was no unusual price discounting or changes in distribution on the brand. Media spend was on par with previous investment during this period. Some feature price activity occurred during the launches of new SKUs in February and March.


Client: PepsiCo Canada

Marketing managers, Gatorade: Dave Sheedy, Sean Cauterman

Director of marketing – Hydration Portfolio: Shirley Mukerjea

Agency: TBWA\Toronto

ECD: Allen Oke

CDs: Rodger Eyre, Gerald Kugler

CW: Robbie Percy

AD: Caitlin Gauthier

Producer: Lauren Sloan

Group account director: Patrick LeMoine

Account supervisor: Andrew Harris

Account executive: Milly Benko

Media agency: OMD Canada

PR agency: Praxis Strategic Public Relations