Gatorade’s Big Marketing Debut With Kalen Thornton

Saiesha Munuri
Marketing Editor

Gatorade’s Big Marketing debut at the NBA All-Star weekend game for a good cause.

Gatorade has launched a campaign during the NBA All-star weekend Game to promote its “Fuel Tomorrow” project, which aims to break down barriers in sports by offering donations and resources to community organizations. It is the PepsiCo-owned brand’s first major marketing campaign under Kalen Thornton. This former NFL player joined Gatorade as chief marketing officer last year following a long career at Nike. “Fuel Tomorrow,” a new ad featuring Candace Parker of the WNBA and NBA star Damian Lillard, as well as emerging young basketball player Isabella Escribano, was broadcasted for the first time on Friday during the All-Star Weekend’s Rising Stars Challenge. “This is where it all begins,” the athletes say in the commercial. “But only if we are given the opportunity.”

The ad also hopes to capitalize on the NBA All-Star Game’s buzz (Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

Thornton underlined the campaign’s long-term character in an interview, calling it an “evolution” of Gatorade and an effort to “reinvigorate” the brand. He claims that this is the first time Gatorade has placed money and resources behind its ideals. Over the next five years, the company promises to donate $10 million to community groups such as Athlete Ally, which works to combat homophobia and transphobia in sports, and the Honest Game Foundation, which helps students achieve NCAA criteria.

Fuel Tomorrow has partnered with Athlete Ally, Goods Sports, Honest Game Foundation, Laureus, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Women’s Sports Foundation, and Gatorade Play it Forward. Some groups have been Gatorade partners for a long time, while others are new. Thorton states that the campaign is based on the premise that “sport has the capacity to alter lives.” However, lack of resources and money and where people are physically situated are obstacles to sports accessibility. Thorton also pointed out the differences in infrastructure and sports fields between New York City and Texas, noting that the Lone Star state, for example, has more open space suitable for sports fields. In addition, the campaign, which is being launched during Black History Month, includes a drive for diversity and a fight against stereotypes and microaggressions. Gymnastics was his first sport, which he described as “an unconventional activity for someone who looks like me.” The ad also hopes to capitalize on the NBA All-Star Game’s buzz. Advertisements were broadcasted on various platforms, including television, streaming, and digital. The promotion is aimed at young people, notably Generation Z and Generation Alpha.

In January, sportswear manufacturer Under Armour announced a similar plan, promising to provide programs and scholarships to assist millions of young people to get involved in sports. Likewise, after losing market share to competitors such as Coca-Cola Co, Gatorade has introduced new goods to attract younger athletes, including a sweat patch and beverages such as Gatorade Juiced. Gatorade chose to launch the campaign at the time when “people and athletes are all now thinking about what the future looks like,” said Thornton, as sports and places continued to open up after pandemic shutdowns.

“Unlocking potential happens when we work together. That’s why we are proud to partner with social impact organizations that are working tirelessly to elevate the game and uplift communities. We will collaborate to break down barriers and build a more equitable world in sports.”- Fuel Tomorrow


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