By Barry Janoff
Originally published at SportsBiz@SportsBlog
September 26, 2016: TV is filled with shows that have a nasty edge, either pranking people, purposely pitting known adversaries together in close quarters to create physical altercations or showing endless streams of YouTube clips of people being people — where the equation being the more inane or injurious the scenario, the louder the laughs.
Gatorade has created, in essence, its own unreal reality show, “Burn It To Earn It,” staring the likes of J.J. Watt, Karl-Anthony Towns, Bryce Harper and James Rodriguez.
Via a series of ads, as the purportedly unscripted scenario goes, Gatorade calls to task some of its own consumers, who the PepsiCo brand apparently sees as, what Wayne and Garth would have deemed, as “unworthy.”
In nearly a dozen spots, “unsuspecting people” casually walking down the street who by sheer coincidence are drinking a Gatorade are challenged to sweat for the right to enjoy the product.
The plot in each starts with an unmarked white van pulling onto an empty street. Depending on the star of the ad, a mini-sports scene is then created: football props for NFL all-pro Watt, basketball hoops for rising NBA star Towns, bases and baseballs for MLB All-Star Harper and a soccer net and ball for Real Madrid star Rodriguez.
With cameras rolling — and “ad-lib” commentary from sideline announcers J.A. Adande (ESPN) and comedian/actor Rick Ingraham — passersby who just happen to be in the right place (for Gatorade) at the wrong time (for themselves) are chastised for having purchased the product but not living up to the standards of Gatorade’s marketing mantras: “Fuel to Power Your Game,” “Win From Within,” “The Sports Fuel Company” and the most recent tag, “Sweat It To Get It.”
In sales terms, the equivalent might be Starbucks refusing to serve customers who don’t order “Venti” or Chevy taking the keys away from Camaro owners who don’t drive fast enough.
Not to mention that “more than 145 million adults now include walking as part of a physically active lifestyle,” according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In “Jump Ball,” a diminutive woman has her Gatorade taken away by the seven-foot tall Towns, who holds the bottle above his head and makes the woman jump for it. “A very controversial play there by the unsweaty woman with the Gatorade,” say Azande.
“You just take my Gatorade?!” she says to Towns. “You gotta earn it,” he explains. “You gotta earn the sugar.” As she unsuccessfully leaps in the air, Ingraham says, “What’s the opposite of hang time? She’s got those athletic sandals on.” Towns eventually lowers his arm, enabling the woman to reclaim her prize.
In “Dunk Contest,” a “tiny, sweatless man who has yet to earn his Gatorade” is enlisted into the “First Annual Gatorade Slamfest,” The guy, much shorter than Towns, is degraded by the announcers: “Not a Dunk,” “Awkward” and “?.” Towns shows the guy how it is done, first picking the guy up like a rag doll and then swatting away an attempted shot.
Houston Texans’ defensive end Watt, in full pads and helmet, gets to show his tackling skills in “Big Hit” when he body-slams a clueless pedestrian holding a Gatorade into the trash, then chases another guy down the street, yelling, “Oh, yeah. You’re next.” According to the announcers, “You can’t just waltz through here with a bottle of Gatorade you didn’t sweat for.”
Watt puts a woman to the test when she has to earn her Gatorade by pushing a “Blocking Sled,” which players such as the 6’5”, 289. lb. Watt use for strength training and endurance.
When she predictably fails to move the weight-laden sled, Watt’s words of encouragement are, “My grandmother pushes her shopping cart with more effort than that.” He offers to help, which translates to Watt screaming at her, “Push harder! Put some legs into it!” When she does move the sled a few inches, he yells, “Yes! That’s what I’m taking about!”
Harper gets his turn at bat in “Slow Pitch,” which finds him, a catcher and an umpire, all in full uniform, standing in the middle of deserted street. A guy wanders into the scene and, fortunately for Gatorade, he not only just happens to be carrying a bottle of Gatorade but is also wearing a Washington Nationals jersey.
“You got a Gatorade in your hand and you ain’t sweating?,” observes Harper. “You gotta earn it.” He gives the guy a baseball in exchange for the Gatorade and tells him to pitch to him.
The guy, fortunately for the narrative and the announcers, has a terrible arm. “He threw it like a shot-put. He has the arm of a weak, sad kitten,” they say over a loudspeaker. “With an arm like that, this guy is going to be professional at nothing for a long time.” One pitch hits Harper, who chases the guy down the street.
Internet and social media support.
Lead agency is TBWA\Chiat\Day.
Other spots include:
• Watt: "Snap"
• Towns: "D-Up"
• Rodriguez: "Red Card"