Tonight I had a special opportunity to hear from Randall Brown, Director of Digital Marketing at Gatorade, at an event the American Advertising Federation of Kansas City was hosting downtown. As a sports fan, and going to college in Florida where Gatorade was born, I have always been fascinated with the brand and its evolution. Honestly, I was never quite exactly sure how Gatorade fit into the sports landscape – but they were always there. Sure, it always made sense for the athletes, but you don’t root for Gatorade like a team, Gatorade is not a cultural phenomenon or fashion statement like Nike, and although the athletes are drinking it on the sidelines, you can’t even walk to a concession stand and order one. That’s why I was shocked when I learned tonight that Gatorade is actually the third largest sports brand behind only Nike and ESPN.
Undoubtedly, much of Gatorade’s success has to do with their ability to reinvent themselves and push the marketing envelope. There are many lessons to be learned from a brand like Gatorade, so I wanted to share some of my key takeaways from Randall Brown’s presentation. Randall Brown is one of those speakers that you listen to and you know why they are where they are (and making more money than you). I always enjoy these humbling experiences as they are healthy reminders to get back to work and keep learning. To get a feel for Randall’s online sports marketing credibility, look no further than the Ball Girl video from a couple of years ago which he helped come up with:
With over one million views, this video earned Viral Video of Year in 2008. Capturing the imaginations of even casual sports fans, my dad even shared this video with me because he was not sure whether or not it was real. Randall talked about the importance of being a game-changing brand and admitted learning from their mistake of allowing competitors to define the game for them. Gatorade now calls their own shots and unleashes very innovative tactics like the sample above. It was refreshing to hear how open their brand is to trial and error during their online sports marketing efforts.
A few other ideas that resonated with me:
- Big brands expect perfection from agencies in regards to execution to the point that they do not even consider them not being perfect. Imperfections in execution are like a typo on a resume – just don’t do it.
- My keyword of the night was “VISION”. There are millions of people that can execute, but can you see further around the upcoming curve than the people you are working for?
- Anytime you lay down, there is somebody, somewhere inventing something new or taking one of your ideas to the next level. We can only do so much, but we should all be striving to constantly innovate ourselves.
- What keeps Randall Brown up at night is the sheer magnitude of opportunity that online sports marketing represents.
- As I suggested brands do last week, Gatorade embraces engaging with less than happy customers via social media. My favorite joke of the night was when Randall said they don’t engage people that just say “I hate Gatorade”, because you wouldn’t do that in real life. However, anytime they can help solve a customer’s problem or learn something, they will reach out.
This presentation was particularly timely and interesting to me, as just two days ago, I tweeted about a report released from BNET that Gatorade’s Facebook and rebranding efforts were failing. It’s not very often you get to hear both sides of the story, and especially not straight from the horse’s mouth. Randall Brown openly concedes that this is a multi-year evolution at Gatorade. Frankly, the guy was G, and I am a believer. Thank you for the candid thoughts, Mr. Brown, and for hosting us AAFKC. #ilovekc (I always forget those only work on Twitter).
P.S. See there, I got through the whole post without even mentioning Mission Control – it’s cool.