Powerade teams up with NBA star Ja Morant on a new ad campaign that calls out Gatorade
By Rafael Canton
Powerade has long been a runner-up in the sports drink category. But today, the Coca-Cola-owned brand is announcing the new face of its brand, NBA star Ja Morant, point guard for the Memphis Grizzlies—along with a new ad campaign that directly calls out Gatorade. The deal is Powerade’s first athlete partnership in five years.
Powerade has been around since 1988, but has seen its place in the sports drink category fall to third behind its new sister company, BodyArmor, which Coke purchased for $5.6 billion in 2021. Both brands now exist under Coke’s BodyArmor Sports Nutrition umbrella.
Gatorade—which is owned by PepsiCo—controls about 63% of the U.S. sports drinks market by volume, according to data from Euromonitor International. (BodyArmor has a 14.5% market share, while Powerade has 14.1%.)
BodyArmor Sports Nutrition CEO Federico Muyshondt says the partnership and campaign with Morant is part of a five-year plan to overtake Gatorade through combined efforts from both brands. “It’s a monumental task, but that’s what we’re here for,” he says.
The new ad, debuting in the NCAA tournament later this month, recreates moments of Morant’s training and workout regimen from his childhood. Morant’s father, Tee—who trained him—narrates the spot.
“It’s exciting to see,” Morant tells Fast Company. “I’ve been through a lot. It basically describes my life through this and what makes it even better is having my dad be the voice of it. That’s pretty much all I heard at a young age, whether it was good or bad.”
The spot also emphasizes the product’s new formula, with added Vitamin C and B12 and throws down the gauntlet to challenge Pepsi’s Gatorade. At the end of the ad, Powerade boasts it has 50% more electrolytes than Gatorade’s Thirst Quencher product, a claim already featured on Powerade’s new packaging.
Building an authentic story
Morant originally signed an endorsement deal in 2020 with BodyArmor and has appeared in ads with the brand previously. Morant is on a multi-year deal, and this campaign starts a shift over from BodyArmor to the face of the Powerade brand.
The story in the ad, which showcases Morant’s background as a lightly recruited high schooler that rose to basketball prominence at Murray State, aligns with Powerade’s quest to rise up as a challenger brand, says the brand. Morant was the talk of the 2019 NCAA Tournament after he led his team with a triple-double in a first round upset of Marquette.
“Partnering with a disruptive game-changer like Ja Morant, who truly embodies the spirit of the brand, will help re-energize Powerade as we write the next chapter,” said Matt Dzamba, CMO of BodyArmor Sports Nutrition in a statement.
Titled “What 50% More Means,” the spot will debut on television on Tuesday, March 14, during NCAA March Madness. It was created with OpenX, an integrated agency model that provides the Coca-Cola company creative, media, social, data, tech, PR, and commerce experts from its global marketing network partner WPP.
The ad is a big moment for Powerade. The brand has been the official sports drink of the NCAA Tournament since 2011 for every year except 2019. Last year’s NCAA tournament drew an average of 10.7 million viewers so it gives the brand a chance to connect with viewers with its revamped product. The spend on the campaign is $10 million.
“This is the biggest investment in absolute dollars and biggest investment as a percentage of net revenue,” Muyshondt tells Fast Company. “Any way you slice it, this is the biggest investment we’re putting into the brand in its history. And it’s not one and done. We’re not here to make a big splash one year and then come back next year. This is a five-year commitment that we have behind the brand.”
Muyshondt, who was named CEO of BodyArmor Sports Nutrition last year after serving as Chobani’s chief commercial officer, says he also plans to add new products next year.
Morant recently received his first signature sneaker, “the Ja 1” from Nike, who christened him its first ever Gen Z signature athlete. “It was big time,” Morant tells Fast Company. “It’s a credit to the work I’ve put in. To be the first Gen Z athlete is an honor and I’m extremely blessed.”
The partnership with Powerade and the deal with Nike are just a couple of notches on Morant’s business belt. The two-time All-Star also counts sponsorship deals with Hasbro and Apple’s Beats by Dre as well as equity in recovery-device brand Hyperice.
He has also made the goal of becoming a billionaire by the age of 30, inspired by his mother, Jamie. “She texts me pretty much every day and always asks me about how I carry myself and having my priorities in line,” he says. “My mom is the reason I have that mindset.”