Life Christian Academy guard and Gatorade athlete Hansel Emmanuel (photo courtesy of Gatorade)

Gatorade Moves on From NHL as Part of Reinvented Sports Marketing Playbook

Gatorade’s next phase as a brand includes cultivating its most diverse, high-achieving athlete roster ever.

As part of what it’s calling a reinvention of its sports marketing playbook, Gatorade is not renewing its partnership with the NHL beyond this season, the company said Tuesday.

“The NHL has been a great partner for years, and while we weren’t aligned on the financial commitment to renew, Gatorade will continue to have a presence in hockey,” Jeff Kearney, Gatorade’s Global Head of Sports Marketing, told Boardroom. “We’ve had to be very thoughtful in where our resources, both people and funds, are going. So for us, we didn’t want to over-commit in one space, instead focusing on reaching as many athletes as we can.”

That includes adding US Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Suni Lee and high school basketball star Hansel Emmanuel to its Fuel Tomorrow campaign, including a national commercial spot debuting in mid-to-late June. Doing so, Kearney said, continues Gatorade’s commitment to supporting championship-caliber, high character athletes early in their careers as it’s done with everyone from Michael Jordan and Peyton Manning to Dwyane Wade and Abby Wambach.

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“We view ourselves as both a supplier of best-in-class equipment to help the athlete and the partner, but also a partner that when we work together can make an impact,” Kearney said. “We’re just trying to move sports and our partnerships forward in that fashion, taking a different lens on all the relationships that we currently have and that we’re building in the future.”

In the 11 months in the NIL era, Gatorade has signed younger athletes and organizations than it ever has before, from Paige Bueckers and Shedeur Sanders to Overtime Elite and G League Ignite. Kearney said the company is still learning, but Gatorade still needs to let student-athletes focus on academics and be mindful and respectful of their time while tailoring deals to their needs and circumstances.

In addition to a new partnership with the NFL that includes directly working with its players on a product that will be on sidelines during games this fall before going out to the general public early in 2023, Gatorade’s future, according to Kearney, is to continue to be where the sports industry is headed while building the most diverse and impactful athlete roster the company’s ever assembled.

It won’t be long, Kearney said, before Gatorade is in the metaverse and all over both fantasy sports and Web3 — we’re due to hear more about all this in the next few weeks. But for now, Gatorade’s new playbook and it’s lack of unlimited funds means that we will now longer be seeing Gatorade’s green bottles on NHL benches and locker rooms beyond the 2021-2022 campaign.

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