The wildly popular beverage that got started at none other than the University of Florida, Gatorade has been in the public eye for more than 50 years. It pushed through the industry after Dr. Ade decided to create a drink that hydrates at a supreme level. Looking to attribute the drink to the school that he created it at, Dr. Ade combined his name with the school mascot to create a brand for the ages, Gatorade.
Within five years, the drink was across store shelves nationally, and the hype would never cease for years to come.
Of course, that’s not the real story (I hope you suspected that with Dr. Ade). But even if there was a second of doubt as to whether it was true or not, it goes to show that even the students and residents in the local area don’t know a lot about the story of an extremely popular drink that helped shape the school’s identity.
Today, let’s take a look at the story behind the drink, what stirred up the idea, and how it evolved over the years.
The Early Years
Surprisingly enough, back in 1965 it wasn’t encouraged that a player on the football field drink anything at all during practice or a game. Team physicians back then thought that it would make the players sick and affect their play. So, all of these players were on the field in Gainesville (a devilishly hot place during the fall and summer), sweating their tails off and not taking in any fluids to help their bodies through recovery.
That brought questions into one Gator assistant coaches head – Dwayne Douglas. He wondered how players were losing a bunch of weight and not going to the restroom at all. Douglas brought the question up to Dr. Robert Cade (Dr. Ade in the intro, which is pretty close to Cade), and the doctor was intrigued. After research with a couple other doctors, they concluded that heat was actually taking the energy out of players, and the electrolytes they were losing wasn’t healthy for the players at all.
Cade asked the Florida head football coach at the time, Ray Graves, if he could use some of the players for testing. After undergoing experiments for a bit, the doctors reaffirmed their previous thoughts that practicing in the heat did more than drain their energy levels. And so the doctors got to work on a new sports drink concoction that would restore what was drained from the player’s bodies.
And after a few missteps that’s typical in creating anything, Gatorade was formed. The team used it on junior varsity teams first, and when that proved to be successful, the drink moved over to Florida Gators football team, which would finish off its first season with the drink at 8-2.
After a few years, new jobs were handed out to Florida staff across the nation, and with that, the drink was spread to other schools, expanding the drink’s market throughout the country.
Gatorade Gets Even Bigger
Of course, nothing can get national recognition without a good ol’ legal dispute, am I right?
After thousands of gallons of the stuff was shipped throughout the country, in 1967, Gatorade was purchased under the Stokely Van-Camp brand. There were upcoming disputes on who was going to get some royalties out of it.
In 1983, Van-Camp was bought by a larger company that everyone is bound to know about. Does Quaker Oats ring a bell? The huge corporation turned a small-time drink into a one of the main drinks you buy off the store shelves.
Endorsements from athletes like Michael Jordan cemented its role in athletics overall. In 2001, Quaker Oats was bought out by PepsiCo, furthering its reaches even more.
The drink now adds billions of dollars to its name annually, and the University of Florida still benefits from its creation to this day. Over 80 million dollars is given to the school annually, which has helped the University build multiple facilities for students and make the school one of the strongest in the nation.
The Evolvement of the Drink
Around 20 years after creating the drink for the ages, Dr. Cade wasn’t satisfied and wanted to come up with a better formula that would improve the hydration of players even more. So in 1985, a new research facility was created in Barrington, Illinois to find the optimal solutions to the hydration issues and the perfect combinations to combat it.
Dr. Cade came up with other ideas that he believed were more effective than Gatorade, but those were never made public.
One of the most interesting things to look at is how the drink evolved into various flavors and other products over the 50 plus years.
Throughout the first 20 or so years, there wasn’t much variety in the flavors of the drink. The initial brand only had two types – lemon-lime and orange. Both of these flavors are still available today, and they’ve remained as two of the pillar flavors when speaking of the drink.
In the 80’s, new flavor ideas were thought of. Fruit punch gatorade became a thing, and when a citrus cooler flavor was introduced, Michael Jordan said that was his favorite flavor, blowing up the sales of the product.
Gatorade has undergone numerous changes and rebrandings since then. Pieces of gum, energy bars, nutritional shakes and various forms of the original product have all been a part of it’s history.
In very recent developments, the NBA D-League, the NBA’s main source for development, will be renamed the NBA Gatorade league for the 2017-2018 season. If that doesn’t show how far the brand has outstretched its arms, I don’t know what else will.
Gatorade is a part of the University of Florida’s storied heritage, as well as the city of Gainesville. Next time you’re about to take an extended slurp of the beverage after running three miles or sitting on a comfy couch for hours, remember that the drink has had more of an effect on the city and the nation than Dr. Cade could possible imagine in 1965.