PepsiCo's Gatorade launched a mobile video series aimed at student athletes who have been a core target throughout the sports drink brand's history. Gatorade collaborated with Hudl, a video platform for coaches and athletes to record and share highlight reels, to integrate its branding with original content.
Gatorade's "Skills & Drills" series is hosted on Hudl's iOS and Android apps, helping to reach student athletes on mobile platforms where they're likely to watch sports-related videos. Each of series' 24 episodes features advice from a professional athlete, coach or doctor on how to improve athletic performance. Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics, for example, offers tips on cardio training, per information shared with Marketing Dive.
"A lot of the things Gatorade talks about are the same thing that Hudl talks about, in terms of helping athletes reach the next level and being part of their whole journey," said Matt Mueller, chief operating officer of Hudl. "We're looking for brand partners that help improve the athlete's experience in getting ready."
Unlike traditional commercials with overt sales messages, the Gatorade-sponsored series aims to be more informational for younger audiences. By emphasizing professional advice on athletic training, the series helps to position the sports drink brand as supportive, authentic and educational.
Keying into student athletes
During the sports season, student athletes spend more time on Hudl than they do on social media apps like Instagram, according to Hudl's research. For brands like Gatorade that seek to reach young athletes who are most likely to consume sports drinks, Hudl aims to help them improve their targeting. Hudl is free to athletes at schools that pay a subscription fee to provide its various services to their teams. More than 5 million people use its platform among 170,000 teams at 30,000 schools, Mueller said. Its platform has a 99% penetration rate among high school football teams, and the Gatorade content helps to engage student athletes as the school year ends.
"In the off-season right now when many football players aren't playing, it's a great way for us to connect, to share, and bringing someone like Gatorade to the platform is a great experience," Mueller said. "The athletes are excited about it, and for the professional athletes, it's something that can help engage a greater brand affinity with a brand like Gatorade."
The "Skills & Drills" videos collectively have generated millions of views, giving the brand significant exposure among Hudl users. In addition to the episode starring Jayson Tatum, the first few videos in the series include a demonstration of speed training from Philadelphia Eagles Director of Performance Ted Rath as well as sessions on agility training from New York Mets Strength and Conditioning Coach Dustin Clarke and Houston Rockets Director of Performance Javair Gillett.
Hudl was started as a tool for coaches to create video reels of games and use them to train student athletes. Amid the growth in social media, those athletes can share their highlight reels with friends, family, fans and recruiters.
The "Skills & Drills" series comes as Gatorade helps to drive sales growth for PepsiCo, despite losing share in the sports drink category, according to Nielsen data cited by Kevin Grundy, a Jeffries analyst who was present during a quarterly earnings call in April.
"Gatorade is not growing share in the sports drink category, but it's been one of the top three brands contributing to overall growth of LRB [liquid refreshment beverage] in 2020 and continues in 2021," Ramon L. Laguarta, chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, said during the call. "The growth of Gatorade has been very strong."
Laguarta pointed to Gatorade Zero, a sugar-free version of the drink for consumers looking to cut back on carbs, as a growth driver for the brand. Gatorade has about 68% of the sports drink market in the U.S., followed by Coca-Cola's Powerade at 14% and BodyArmor at 9.3%, according to Beverage Daily.
Before the pandemic disrupted school sports, Gatorade consistently ran campaigns targeting student athletes and sports enthusiasts. Last year, those efforts included a global campaign featuring some of the world's "greatest of all time" (GOAT) athletes such as NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, tennis star Serena Williams, soccer player Lionel Messi and runner Usain Bolt. They appeared in Gatorade's "GOAT Camp" ad that showed a mythical setting where students could train with elite athletes.
Gatorade's "Skills & Drills" video series is consistent with those past efforts to reach younger consumers, though it seeks to extend its brand exposure with content that is geared specifically toward student athletes.
"When brand partners come to us to connect with athletes, especially around a video-centric ad campaign, it becomes really unique," Mueller said. "When you come to our platform, it's not just a wide, scattershot approach — you are talking directly to high school athletes."