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Gatorade drops NHL deal amid shift in sports sponsorship strategy

Brand set to focus on college deals, investments in women’s sports and the metaverse.

1 June 2022 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Gatorade has been NHL sponsor since 2006
  • Brand’s global head of sports marketing says pair “weren’t aligned” on financial commitments
  • Move comes after PepsiCo scaled back NFL partnership

Gatorade has opted not to renew its partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL) as part of a wider shift in the company’s sports marketing strategy.

The sports drink brand has been a sponsor of the North American ice hockey league since 2006 and its parent company PepsiCo last renewed the deal in 2018.

However Jeff Kearney, Gatorade’s global head of sports marketing, told Boardroom that the two parties “weren’t aligned on the financial commitment to renew”, but did add that the brand will continue to have a presence in ice hockey.

“We’ve had to be very thoughtful in where our resources, both people and funds, are going,” he said. “So for us, we didn’t want to over-commit in one space, instead focusing on reaching as many athletes as we can.”

Elaborating on the decision in a LinkedIn post, Kearney said that Gatorade plans to continue to invest in ‘young and diverse athlete communities’.

Moving forward, Kearney suggested that Gatorade will shift its sports marketing focus towards college sports deals, investments in women’s athletes and competitions, as well as the metaverse.

That is in keeping with recent moves made by the company, which over the past year has signed name, image and likeness (NIL) deals with Paige Bueckers and Shedeur Sanders. Gatorade also became a founding partner of the Overtime Elite developmental basketball league and the Angel City women’s soccer team.

“We’re just trying to move sports and our partnerships forward in that fashion, taking a different lens on all the relationships that we currently have and that we’re building in the future,” Kearney told Boardroom.

SportsPro Says…

Gatorade products have been a familiar site on the sidelines in many US sports leagues and the company still holds deals with the likes of the National Football League (NFL), National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball (MLB).

However, the decision to end its relationship with the NHL comes at a time when PepsiCo is scaling back its relationships with the major leagues. Last week, for example, the company renewed its partnership with the NFL but dropped Pepsi’s sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show, which had been a key part of the previous deal.

Having spent many years being synonymous with some of North America’s biggest sports properties, this could be a sign that Gatorade is now intent on shifting its strategy towards areas with high growth potential in an attempt to reach new audiences.

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