Born to Run: Gatorade Animates an Athlete’s Story

At the 2017 World Athletics Championships, in his final individual race, the 100 meters, Usain Bolt of Jamaica came in third place. In the 4×100 meter relay Bolt acted as the anchor for his team and collapsed after an apparent hamstring injury, but refused to lay down and with the help of his teammates crossed the finish line. So came the (possible) end of the world’s fastest man, or as Gatorade would like you to believe, The Boy Who Learned to Fly.

The Boy Who Learned to Fly is a branded short film from Gatorade’s 2016 “For the Love of Sports” marketing campaign, which was aimed at supporting youth sports. Gatorade distributed special-edition bottles featuring promoted athletes that invited consumers to vote on his or her favorite non-profit sports organizations. These votes determined how Gatorade divided its $300,000 in donations.

Usain Bolt, one of the sponsored athletes, is the subject of The Boy Who Learned to Fly, which documents how he fell in love with running, pursued it, and overcame his fear of disappointing his country and the people rooting for him. The film culminates at the 2002 World Junior Championships and, well, the rest is history.

Gatorade Usain Bolt Branded Short Film

Some Good:

  1. The Relatable Story – Very few stories are as inspirational as sports dramas (Rudy, Rocky). Everyone loves an underdog. Now, was Usain Bolt an underdog? Probably not. But in all sports, there is self-doubt and The Boy Who Learned to Fly explored Bolt’s doubt and how he overcame it. This film survived and succeeded on being relatable! There is no better way to ensnare your audience. You might not be a track and field runner, but if Usain Bolt has self-doubt like you, then maybe you can be a champion like him. That is the foundation of Gatorade. It is the drink of athletes; the drink of champions.
  2. Timing – Timing is everything. One second too late or one second too early and all your fortunes can change. I think of Man of Steel, which was a so-so superhero movie, but made a killing on its opening weekend, at the time becoming the highest weekend debut in June! How did it do this? Great marketing and it opened on Father’s Day weekend 2013. Guess what I took my Dad to see on Father’s Day weekend 2013? Exactly. The same goes for The Boy Who Learned to Fly, which ran right before Usain Bolt’s (supposedly) final Olympics at Rio in 2016. The Olympics are the sporting event of the year, so what better time to advertise an athletic brand.

Some Bad:

  1. The Animation – I’m not the biggest fan of the flat look. The colors were great and it had some cool “camera” movement, but I didn’t care for most of the animation until the end when it started to wear on me. The animation was good, just not my cup of tea.
  2. Gatorade – How? This was supposed to advertise Gatorade’s campaign, right? Well, the entire time I watched this I did not once pick up on Gatorade, save for the credits and that was on the third viewing! I thought this was solely about Usain Bolt. I see Gatorade at every sporting event so when it showed up was I supposed to recognize this is as an ad for Gatorade? Maybe, but when I watched this puppy, I saw it as an ad for Usain Bolt and never made the Gatorade connection. I can’t say Gatorade lost anything, but it didn’t lasso me in with its campaign.

The Takeaway:

I couldn’t find the exact numbers, but I assure you Gatorade did not suffer from this promotion. It is PepsiCo’s fourth largest brand and accounts for practically 75% of the sports drink market. Gatorade is like Twinkies. It’ll survive the apocalypse. But, while they produced a nice little short film, they completely missed me on the product advertising. Instead, they reminded me of the first time I saw Usain Bolt run and how, for a second, it looked as if he was flying.

AUTHOR: Dan Nelsen
ORIGIN: Speaking Human Contributor

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