BE LIKE MIKE: GATORADE’S THIRST TO WIN “23 vs. 39”
When it comes to marketing your product Gatorade hit the nail on the head with Michael Jordan as the face and voice of their product. The main objective for every company is to sell its product to the masses worldwide. How might they do that? Through the use of strategic tactics, a catchy tune, a memorable catch phrase, or a recognizable celebrity face or voice, a company may try to appeal to a select market population. Utilizing a name that is not only legendary worldwide but can be identified simply by a nickname, such as a sports figure, eliminates the need for developing new marketing formats. Several companies hit the celebrity jackpot when hiring Michael Jordan to endorse their products. One in particular is PepsiCo, the distributor of Gatorade. The commercial chosen for this review shows Michael in his element, on the court shooting basketball. The use of Michael Jordan, in the “23 vs. 39” commercial at various stages within his basketball career and age progression reached multiple populations across the lifespan, thus bridging the generational gaps (Adage.com, 2003).
A company’s marketing team’s goal is to promote a product through advertisement to get attention, to be remembered, to be needed, to be wanted and to be bought. Depending on the product to be marketed it must first be determined who they are targeting demographically. PepsiCo, which acquired Gatorade from Quaker Oats, made a long standing financially beneficial business deal with Michael Jordan as their face of Gatorade. Michael Jordan, also known as M.J., made his debut as the face of Gatorade on August 8th 1991 when Gatorade’s “Be Like Mike” commercial aired (Rovell, 2016). The “Be Like Mike” commercial shows a determined Michael Jordan playing a professional basketball game with his teammates then switching to an outdoor basketball court filled with different aged children, from young to young adult, all playing basketball. The “Be Like Mike” song plays as we are taken back and forth from the professional game to the outdoor court (Be Like Mike, 1992). The personalized song is a marketing genius move to create a memorable commercial that links a song with a product. The energy portrayed in the professional game on the hardwood to the pick-up games on the asphalt shows M.J. in his element, human and approachable. The commercial is energized with the use of children and everyone is moving and smiling. It is an extremely fast paced and action packed video. Compared to the “23 vs 39” Gatorade commercial it is a vast contrast. The lack of graphics from the 1991 commercial compared to the digitally enhanced “23 vs 39” commercial that aired on January 26th 2003 are not comparable. They also do not compare with the emotional feeling I was left with while watching.
The “23 vs. 39” Gatorade commercial shows Michael Jordan alone on the court at the age of 39 just shy of his retirement. He is casually dressed and shooting ball in a gym alone. There is no background music like in the “Be Like Mike” commercial. It appears to be a more solemn and contemplative setting. During the one minute commercial the marketing team created an emotional atmosphere which left the audience noticing Michael’s age progression and wondering how much longer we would be able to witness his greatness on the court. Six seconds into the commercial I hear a door shut and through the darkness of the shadows a younger M.J. walks onto the court dressed in his red, white, and black Chicago Bulls number 23 uniform, and the game is on. An intense game of one-on-one ensues along with a demonstration of skill and trash talking. By pairing him up with his younger self, the ad reminds me of Mike in his prime which created an emotional response while watching it. The younger Jordan appears cocky yet confident while the older Jordan appears confident, yet more wise and methodical in his movements. In the “23 vs. 39” commercial the younger Jordan eventually asks the older if he has had enough (23 vs 39, 2002). The older Jordan responds in kind by returning to the court. When the younger Jordan makes an errant move and the older scores, the older states “That’s the youngster in you (2002).” Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go back to those times when we mess up and life scores on us and use the wisdom we now have to avoid those moments? Later he steals the ball from the younger and at one point, when the younger Jordan attempts to guard him says, “You reach I teach (2002).” The ad seems to shows progression in Jordan physically and emotionally while also a comparison to the wisdom learned from youngster to adult. The ad pans to a question, “Is it in you?” Following the question Michael Jordan and his younger self are seen drinking Gatorade and sweating yellow. Why yellow? The lemon lime flavor they are drinking is represented through their sweat as showing it is indeed in them, answering the question. The end of the commercial shows an even younger Michael Jordan from his North Carolina college days entering the gym stating. “Hey Mike,” to which they both respond, “Who’s got next.” The older Jordan says, “Get your young butt out there.” (2002). We are left to smile and reflect on the Jordan we knew and still feel the link to Jordan because he still has it in him. As I just turned 40 it left me asking myself how much do I still have within me?
Most individuals know who Michael Jordan is, whether it is through his basketball career, or him being the spokesman for many products such as Gatorade, Coke Cola, Chevrolet, Nike, Wheaties, and Hanes just to name a few (Bengtson, 2017). The marketing team for Gatorade created a commercial that was simple in its location, soundless in the background, and emotional for the viewer. According to AdAge.com the commercial was Gatorade’s first Super Bowl ad and a genius move to boost the already successful product’s sales. By utilizing the images of Jordan across his college, peak professional and the years when his professional career was winding down, Gatorade was successful in creating an emotional connection. When comparing the “23 vs. 39” to the “Be Like Mike” commercial I personally feel the emotions created by the “23 vs. 39” was perfectly timed with the soon to be retiring Michael Jordan (Adage.com, 2003). This use of Pathos persuasion helped create a connection of the people to Jordan across the ages, thus enhancing the link to their product.
As Gatorade has come to be known as a thirst quencher, who better to endorse and bring credibility to this than Michael Jordan. This marketing technique known as Ethos utilizes the support and testimonial of Jordan to persuade and convince others to use their product. Jordan burst onto the basketball scene in 1982, when as a college freshman for North Carolina, he hit the game-winning shot against Georgetown to help win the NCAA basketball championship. He showed himself to be a winner early on and continues to be well respected and well known by many. The thirst to win endorsed by one of the best known winners brings credibility to Gatorade as a go to product for athletes.
Although no specific numerical data is noted in the “23 vs 39” Gatorade advertisement, those who know Michael Jordan and may have followed his career know that his image and personal statistics speak for themselves. To this day, the number 23 on a product most often links the thoughts of many with Michael Jordan. The colors red, black, and white, especially when linked with the silhouette image of a basketball player “in-flight”, with a ball in hand brings to mind Michael Jordan. Gatorade’s use of Jordan and Logos persuasion appears synonymous with winning and success. This is used to suggest that if Michael Jordan has confidence in the use of Gatorade, others should too.
AdAge.com Gatorade-23 vs. 39, 26 Jan. 2003
Bengtson, Russ. How Michael Jordan Became the GOAT of Celebrity Endorsements, 15
Accessed 14, Apr. 2019.
Gatorade. “Be Like Mike” Youtube, Be Like Mike Gatorade Commercial, 1992. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0AGiq9j_Ak
Gatorade. “23 vs 39” YouTube, The Best Michael Jordan Commercial, 23 Dec. 2002.
Rovell, Darren. “Famed ‘Be like Mike’Gatorade ad debuted 25 years ago”, 8 Aug. 2016. ESPN, 8 Aug. 2016,
Accessed 14, Apr. 2019.