Interview: The Gatorade Guy and His Fan Blog

I've been trading emails with Darren Rovell, an ESPN reporter and the guy behind the Gatorade Blog, and I asked him if he would mind doing an interview about his project (he's writing a book on Gatorade). He agreed. I thought I was being creative with question 6, and his answer surprised me.

1. Why write a book about Gatorade?

I wrote this book because I'm a huge fan of the brand. I knew that Gatorade had a pretty interesting story and when the company decided to do commercials briefly describing their beginnings, I knew I could wait no longer. I couldn't believe that a brand with a story as great as this one wasn't written about extensively. And my early research proved that there was plenty to write about and that the brand would turn 40 in September of 2005.

2. When did you first fall in love with Gatorade?

I first fell in love with Gatorade in sixth grade as a bad runner on my middle school cross country team. I wasn't that good, but drinking Gatorade (and wearing these orange wristbands like my favorite Mets wore) made me feel as though I was a legitimate athlete.

3. Did you start the blog out of love for Gatorade, to promote the book, or because Gatorade is really behind all of this?

I started the blog as a way to keep up with the brand and to help promote the book up until its launch. People won't visit a static Web page promoting your book, so a blog is a good way of giving them content every day. Luckily with a brand like Gatorade, I really have no problem writing about it almost every day (though sometimes it requires some creativity). Gatorade cooperated with me on this, but they are by no means behind the book or the blog. I let them speak, but I didn't let them edit my work. That's everything to a journalist. This book and blog is mostly a love story, but when there is criticism (promoting of overdrinking, tooth decay, etc.), I will discuss it.

4. What is the most interesting thing you have discovered about Gatorade while doing your research?

There are about 30 times in the book where I think the reader is going to be astonished at the story. Like the fact that the 1965/66 Florida Gators were credited with putting Gatorade on the map. Their quarterback was Steve Spurrier, who engineered these great second half comebacks that were often attributed to Gatorade more than Spurrier. Yet Spurrier told me he drank Coke at halftime.

5. Why do you think Gatorade has been such a successful brand?

Gatorade has been so successful for many reasons. I have a chapter called "Gatorade Rules," in which I list 9 principles that have kept the brand on target. I think most of all they haven't steered from their core message, which is a drink for athletes (even though people eat their pizza with it). They are intricately tied to sports. And they've had some very smart and passionate people work for them.

6. Has there been any research into an alcoholic form of Gatorade, for those who sweat when they party hard?

Great question. Gatorade's inventor Dr. rob_businessert Cade actually invented a drink called "Hop'n Gator." It was a mixture of Gatorade and alcohol and was produced by the Pittsburgh Brewing Company in the early 1970s. Cade was sued by the company that bought Gatorade from him and the rest of the Gatorade trust and so the drink faded away. But Gatorade is put in several drinks these days — it actually helps move the alcohol through your body quicker. And Gatorade also serves a dual purpose. It's great to prevent hangovers. If you drink it before you go to sleep, you get hydrated and you'll often wake up in the morning feeling good.

7. What opportunities do you see for Gatorade down the road in the form of untapped markets or new products?

I think Gatorade has to be careful in this area. Pepsi acquired the brand a couple years ago and I'm sure the parent company is putting pressure on the brand to branch out. But there's a potential to make some mistakes out there. Propel, the fitness water, was a great move. Making Gatorade energy bars was an awful mistake and this new Gatorade Endurance Formula for high intensity athletes is definitely a risk to put in the general marketplace. I think the best thing that they can do is just concentrate on rolling out new flavors.

8. What is your favorite flavor?

My favorite flavor is actually Chironja (grapefruit and orange combo), but they only make it in Puerto Rico. Favorite flavor here in this country is Mango Xtremo.

9. What effect do you think fan blogs will have on products and companies?

In the next three years, public relations managers for companies and brands are going to have to pay serious attention to blogs. If they don't, they can be hurt by the messages much in the same a company would get hurt from a bad news report. I predict that in the next couple years, one of the next trends in blogs is going to be specific company and brand blogs. There will be a Coke and Pepsi blog, a Budweiser blog and a Nike blog. There will be a Procter & Gamble blog, a jetBlue blog and a Hershey's Blog.

Actually, I guess I started Businesspundit because I'm a business fan, so this is a fan blog too.

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Thanks to Darren for his time. Check out his blog for more info on the book, or if you have questions for him.