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First in Thirst

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First in Thirst

How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat Into a Cultural Phenomenon


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

People drink 142 bottles of Gatorade a second in the U.S. alone. Are people that thirsty? Or just that sweaty?

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


This is such a powerful brand story that you may actually get thirsty reading it. Most people have no idea that sweating creates a huge drink market, but author Darren Rovell tells a well-researched, interesting and compelling story about how a group of Florida doctors concocted a simple drink to prevent dehydration. A combination of good science, luck and efficient marketing helped transform this initially unpalatable drink into the world’s most popular sports elixir. Along the way, Gatorade marketers forged relationships with athletes, teams and superstars, and capitalized on the public’s fascination with sports. The end result was a sales and marketing bonanza. recommends this brand building saga to all marketers or to anyone interested in just how a drink built a bridge between sports and popular culture. Even if you don’t break a sweat reading Rovell’s marketing saga, prepare yourself to buy a bottle of Gatorade - you’re going to want to satisfy your thirst to check this out.


Liquid Gold

Gatorade is more than a salty-flavored Technicolor drink that keeps athletes hydrated. The brand has become synonymous with competitive athletics itself. Gatorade is a huge marketing force with thousands of sponsorship deals, a huge advertising budget ($135 million in 2003 and 2004) and promotional contracts with the NBA and Division 1-A schools. Gatorade became the NFL’s official drink in a $45 million annual deal.

As a testimony to its popularity with amateurs as well as professionals, the drink has found wider applications. One winning harness race horse reportedly drank 200 gallons of Gatorade annually. A five-year-old girl survived 10 days alone by drinking Gatorade and eating noodles after an auto wreck killed her mother. Gatorade has been used to help children in Africa fend off dehydration; soldiers and rock stars drink it to boost their energy levels.

The New York Times ranks this 40-year-old drink with Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Budweiser among the twentieth century’s top brands. However, Pepsi and Coke’s combined shares of the cola market shares do not equal Gatorade’s 80% portion of the sports drink category. Only a few other companies, such...

About the Author

Darren Rovell is’s sports business reporter. He appears on ESPN radio shows, ESPNews, "Sports Center" and "Outside the Lines." He is co-author of On the Ball: What You Can Learn About Business from America’s Sports Leaders.

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