Episode 36


What does it mean to be a brand?

One of the most critical barriers to success is understanding what a brand is and what a brand is NOT. I get this question all the time. Let me tell you what a brand is NOT: A brand is NOT a name, logo, tag-line, package design or the product itself. I call these elements: Window-dressing your brand. A brand is simply an EMOTIONAL IDENTITY that differentiates products, services and people.

As a former marketing executive at global multi-billion dollar consumer products companies like Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury and Godiva, I successfully crafted emotional identities for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Over the course of 25 years, a frequent challenge I faced was communicating the role a brand played in consumer’s lives…in other words its Core Value. To solve this problem, I developed a process to label that brand’s Core Value using just ‘One Word’. This helps consumers understand what they are actually buying.

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word’ Core Value, as well as share valuable topics in the branding arena that will help you Stand-Out Conquer Obstacles and Reach Excellence…in other words, SCORE.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip… GADORADE

Show Notes (click to expand)

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word Core Value.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip…Gatorade.

Is it in you? 


Drinking fluids is a vital part of healthy exercise and sports performance. Water is essential for the human body, since it protects your organs and regulates body temperature. Athletes however, have other options when it comes to replenishing the fluids they lose during their physical activities. 


AND one of those options is Gatorade, an iconic sports beverage available in a rainbow of colors and flavors. The roots of this billion dollar equity are grounded in helping a small football team succeed.

Here’s a little bit of their back story. Back in 1965, the coach of the Florida Gators recruited researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine to help him with a challenge. The team was underperforming in extra hot conditions, and the coach wanted to understand why this was happening – as well as if anything could be done to correct it.

The researchers noted that the players had two issues: #1 a lack of fluid and electrolytes to replace sweat losses, and #2 a lack of carbohydrates for energy replenishment. With this data, they developed a custom drink – a mixture of sugar, salt, water, and citrus flavoring – to help the players hydrate and fuel more efficiently on the field, which they ended up calling “Gatorade.”

When the Gators won their first Orange Bowl in 1967, interest spiked in this seemingly magical beverage. By the late 1960s, one of the researchers reached an agreement with a food manufacturer for U.S. production and sale. Pepsico acquired this brand in 2001 for $13 Billion dollars. By the early 1980s, the NFL signed a licensing agreement to make Gatorade the official drink of their sports league. 

Since then, Gatorade has expanded to become the official sports drink of other properties such as MLB, NBA, WNBA, NHL and other professional and collegiate athletic organizations. It’s clear that Gatorade and sports go hand in hand to drive superior PERFORMANCE. 

That’s because during endurance events, Gatorade helps athletes sustain their maximum energy throughout the competition. Gatorade has been proven to reduce the risk of hyponatraemia and it allows fast release of fluid to the tissue, as well as rapid fluid absorption, which can therefore improve endurance PERFORMANCE if consumed during training or competition.

Gatorade’s strategy has always been to connect consumers with elite athletes – including tennis star Serena Williams, NBA player Jayson Tatum, triathlete Lionel Sanders and professional soccer player Christian Pulisic – to inspire everyday athletes to choose Gatorade if they want to PERFORM at their best.


Now getting back to” Is it in you?”


Prior to 2013, Gatorade used this assertive tag line to capture the spirit of digging deep to find that internal driving force to PERFORM at your best. 


Whether you grew up in the Michael Jordan-Gatorade era like I did – now I have the “Be Like Mike” jingle playing in my head as I record this – or right now, Jordan starred in an ad featuring this slogan, but it was his outtakes that ended up getting the most attention, due to his difficulty in properly intonating the expression this tagline was meant to communicate.


AND I have to say, if I were to “Be Like Mike” in the recording studio, I would have had the same challenges because there are many ways to express this tagline.


I’m going to give it a try….

Is it in you?
Is it…in you?
Is it in..you? 

I’m certainly no Michael Jordan…BUT regardless of how you say this tagline, ONE things for sure:

Your product is NOT your brand.
Your brand is your Core Value…AND
You use your product as the vehicle to drive your Core Value.
Gatorade uses their sports beverage to drive their Core Value of PERFORMANCE.

So, the next time you’re on the playing field, first ask yourself – Is it in you? – and then remember this: PERFORMANCE is how Gatorade SCORES.

I’m Rich Keller, The CATALYST and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect!

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