Skip to content

On June 09, 2023, a lead story in Ad Age was PepsiCo-owned brand Gatorade reviving the “Be Like Mike” campaign. The new commercial is also one of the first ads launched under new Chief Brand Officer Anuj Bhasin. The new ad, “Be Like the Greats,” is packed with superstars. In addition to Michael Jordan, the ad from TBWA features Serena Williams, Lionel Messi, and standouts from the NBA – Jayson Tatum, from the WNBA – Elena Delle Donne, from MLB – Bryce Harper, and Olympic gold medal-winning track star Sydney McLaughlin.

Courtesy of Gatorade

The original “Be Like Mike” first ran in 1991 and became one of the most famous sports ads ever. The question is, does this high profile, high-cost roster deliver a communication championship for Gatorade . . . or is it just a team with a high salary, but no trophy?

ABX, a leading ad effectiveness research and syndicated measurement service, jumped in to evaluate the communication effectiveness, not just confirm that it has a celebrity cast. ABX insights and analyses help their clients average a 20% increase in ad effectiveness.

According to Mr. Bhasin, the commercial is about connecting Gatorade to great athletic performance at any level and the ad tells us, “Greatness isn’t about what you’ve done. It’s about what you’ll do next.”

Well, it is a winner so far. The overall ABX index of 114 makes this the third best scoring TV spot in the Beverages: Athletic & Energy Drinks category in 2023. It is behind only Gatorade’s own Gatorlyte launch at an ABX index of 120 and V8 +ENERGY’s new energy drink launch at an ABX index of 119. The “Be Like the Greats,” TV ad is outperforming both the category and the TV medium overall.

The strength of this communication is a high Message score (116) driven by clarity and understandability. Also enhancing the overall ABX Index is the ad’s likability (116) and ‘see again’ (125).

Further, since the ad features people, the ABX Gender Equality Index™ (GEI™) (link) is also reported. This analysis often presents a richer picture of the drivers of an ad’s performance. For Gatorade’s “Be Like the Greats” TV spot, the ad did very well among men, boys, and women. All groups felt the ad presented both the celebrity and everyday athletes appropriately and with respect. Scoring was particularly high for respondents feeling the men and boys were presented as Role Models (Male ABX score of 120) and (Boys ABX score of 116). The Female score was good, but slightly lower. However, that might reflect Michael Jordan and the male celebrities being more instantly recognizable than the female athletes as well as the ad ending on a male versus female amateur athlete.

ABX also looked at specific verbatim comments. Mr. Bhasin told Ad Age that Gatorade’s strategy is to be the Brand with personalized solutions for both “every day” and competitive athletes alike. Moreover that “greatness” is attainable both in what is achievable on the field and what can be achieved in excelling as a good human being. Gatorade and Mr. Bhasin will be happy with verbatim comments like . . .

  • “I enjoyed that an ad with Michael Jordan depicts how he is the greatest that implies people should feel great as well by drinking the product.”
  • “This was a great ad. It says that failure is ok when trying to achieve your goals. It takes time. I like this ad a lot.”
  • “I think it’s great giving younger viewers the inspiration to be like their athletic heroes.”
  • “I thought it was enjoyable and showed the reason why you would use the product.”

Final score: Using Michael Jordan is one way your ads will be noticed and display greatness. However, assessing whether your ads themselves are great, and are communicating what you intended them to say, takes the assurance of great advertising effectiveness testing from a research company like ABX, which tracks your ads independently and in the context of competitive messaging.

For more information, contact Diane Light Waight, VP Business Development, ABX at LINK.

Written by: Marc Rappin, former CMO of the Advertising Research Foundation.