As a high school gymnast at a Colorado high school in 1997, Jill Abbott still remembers seeing a Gatorade ad pitting Michael Jordan against Mia Hamm in a variety of athletic competitions. The basketball and soccer stars faced off in everything from tennis and track and fencing while a remake of the show tune "Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better)" played in the background.
“I distinctly remember this moment of pause that Gatorade had come out and put Mia Hamm and Michael Jordan on the same playing field and thinking how incredible that felt as a teen athlete, as a female high school athlete, to see a brand like Gatorade talk about how powerful Mia is in the same way that they were talking how powerful Michael was.”
Today, as Gatorade’s head of consumer and athlete engagement, Abbot helped remake the 24-year-old spot with a new pair of stars. The new ad, from TBWA\Chiat\Day, shows U.S. soccer legend Abby Wambach and track icon Usain Bolt squaring off on the stationary bike, a speed skating rink and even at the ping-pong table. Jordan and Hamm make cameos at the end, renewing their ad rivalry in a golf putting green, where Hamm appears to come out on top.
The spot plugs Gatorade Zero, a sugar-free alternative regular Gatorade that debuted in 2018. The PepsiCo brand will give it significant media support, including during March Madness and National Basketball Association games. It comes as Gatorade continues to fend off aggressive marketing from sports drink upstarts such as BodyArmor and Biosteel that has sparked a bit of an endorsement star arms race between the three brands, as each one angles to get the backing of big-time athletes.
Of course, few stars have the clout, and staying power, of Jordan, who gained new relevance last year with ESPN’s “Last Dance” documentary—which profiled his illustrious career in a 10-episode run concluding in late May. He has been with Gatorade since 1991. His “Be Like Mike” ad for the brand still ranks as one of the best-known sports-themed ads. While maybe not in that echelon, the original ‘Anything You Can Do I can Do Better’ spot is still memorable, especially for its progressive theme of putting male and female athletes on equal footing.
There is this “undercurrent of female empowerment” in the spot that was ahead of its time, Abbott says. “To reprise it today, I think it’s highly topical,” she says. “I am a female in a male dominated field of sports, and it is important to me to ensure that we are thinking and acting and in service of female athletes with the same level of intensity as we are with male athletes.”
She adds: “It’s pretty awesome to shine a light on someone like Abby who is an incredible competitor. She truly is a GOAT [Greatest of All Time] when it comes to her sport, but is also a powerful representative of what a powerful woman can do.”
Below, a look at the 1997 ad: