Gatorade - Be Like Mike (1992)

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Be Like Mike Gatorade Commercial (ORIGINAL)
Conceived by Chicago-based agency Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, Gatorade's "Be Like Mike" campaign pivoted off Michael Jordan's stardom to help its product sell out of stores around the U.S. By leveraging the most popular athlete of the 1990's and showing a highlight reel soundtracked to a simple yet catchy song, they were able to create one of the most popular sports campaigns of all time. Kids all around the world longed to "Be Like Mike"—and this commercial let them know Gatorade would help them achieve all of their dreams.

Why We Love Be Like Mike

A. Everyone wants to Be Like Mike

Michael Jordan has an untouchable legacy—he’s the greatest basketball player of all time. This campaign was crafted around one undeniable truth: everyone wants to be like him. This truth resonated with sports fans around the world, making the campaign go viral regardless of market segment.

B. It was catchy

This song is an earworm; it remains infectious and nostalgic for kids of the 90s and it’s impossible not to sing along. The inability to get the jingle out of your head gives this ad even more staying power.

C. Michael is transparent

For 61 seconds, Michael Jordan played with kids of all backgrounds in a pickup game the same way we’d see an uncle play with his nieces and nephews. This portrayed him in a new light and humanized him—implying that it really is possible to follow in his footsteps. 

What We Can Learn From Be Like Mike

1. Stay open to new ideas

The original concept of the commercial was based on a popular Disney song from their movie The Jungle Book called “I Wanna Be Like You.” Gatorade’s plan was to license the track and use it for their commercial, but the negotiations were never finalized due to a lack of approval from the Disney organization. This led them to create the wonderful original song that was the underpinning of the entire campaign.

2. Learn how to adapt

In an effort to bypass the negotiations process, creative director Bernie Pitzel took it upon himself to write his own adaptation of “I Wanna Be Like You.” The newly-created song “Be Like Mike” elevated the campaign. But it wouldn’t have happened if the agency scrapped the campaign because they couldn’t get approval for the song they wanted.

3. Leverage celebrities—strategically

If you have access to celebrities, don’t just put them in your campaign to have a famous face. Make sure they’re fully integrated strategically. Celebrities don’t move the needle unless the campaign is built around them—just like Michael Jordan was the creative impetus for the entire “Be Like Mike” campaign. 

Key Moments

2017
Gatorade honors 25th anniversary

Gatorade and Air Jordan collaborate to honor the 25th anniversary of the commercial, releasing the "Be Like Mike" collection seen around the world today.

2015
Campaign gets digitally remastered

Celebrating their first athlete spokesperson, Gatorade re-airs a digitally remastered version of the iconic ad during the NBA's All Star Weekend.

1992
Campaign created

Ad executive Bernie Piztel brings Jordan's dunks to the world stage with Gatorade's first commercial.