Super Bowl eyed: Gatorade brings back Jordan for new TV spot

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As Michael Jordan gets ready for what could be his last hurrah in professional basketball, PepsiCo is preparing to bring back Gatorade's greatest pitchman.

Element 79 Partners, Chicago, shot footage of Mr. Jordan-wearing neither a Bulls nor a Wizards uniform, but workout gear-at Chicago's United Center in late August. To direct, the agency brought in Joe Pytka, who directed Mr. Jordan in the movie "Space Jam."

PepsiCo is contemplating breaking the ad on the 2003 Super Bowl broadcast-which would be a first for Gatorade-and is planning to run 60-second and 30-second versions of the spot, industry executives said.

Since Mr. Jordan's retirement, Gatorade has relied on younger athletes such as soccer player Mia Hamm and the New York Yankees' Derek Jeter. Mr. Jordan has been used sparingly; this year, he appeared only in stock footage in an ad celebrating Gatorade's 35th anniversary, and previous ads have paired him with other athletes or used only his voice.

PepsiCo declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Element 79, a unit of Omnicom Group, referred calls to PepsiCo.

The change of spokesjocks hasn't hurt the sports beverage's fortunes-Gatorade continues to dominate the $3.6 billion U.S. sports drink category it created. Through the first half of 2002, Gatorade commanded a whopping 85.4% share of U.S. retail sports-drink sales, up from 84.6% in the year-earlier period, according to John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. PowerAde, which is marketed by Coca-Cola Co., represented 12.4%, up from 12.0%.

Though he hasn't been a huge presence in TV ads lately, most sports-marketing experts expect Mr. Jordan will continue to resonate with consumers. "Michael is still an icon," said Peter Land, general manager-sports and entertainment, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, New York.

Mr. Arndorfer is a reporter with Crain's Chicago Business.

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