Now They’re G
Gatorade hosts its High School Athlete of the Year Awards.
by Nima Zarrabi
Los Angeles — What’s going down over at Gatorade?
First came G2. Next up, a logo change and some edgy commercials completely out of the brand’s character. Whether it was the Quest for G ads put together by talented film director Tarsem or the ill black and white “What’s G?” commercials featuring sports icons and a V.O. from Lil Wayne of all people, there has been a clear shift in how we are to see this brand.
There seems to be a lifestyle component now. Was the newfound strategy a response to Vitamin Water’s quest for shelf space or was it the creative mind of Lee Clow at the brand’s new ad agency, TBWA/Chiat Day? Surely there were fire drills that led to changes of this magnitude—including the loss of some market share in recent years—but despite the nibbles from its competitors Gatorade still owns 80 percent of the hydration category. Recognize. Kudos to them for stepping out and changing up the game. The ads have been fun to watch, the logo is back to being relevant and some of the new flavors are pretty good. Hopefully there is more groundbreaking work to come.
Despite some serious cosmetic changes, the core remains the same at Gatorade, particularly the brand’s commitment to high school athletics. On Wednesday afternoon, I attended the 7th Annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel in Downtown L.A. in the beautiful Crystal Ballroom of the hotel.
The event was top notch and also featured several pro athletes: Landon Donovan, Kevin Durant, Matt Stafford, Jessica Mendoza (Team USA softball) and Misty May-Treanor. Gatorade did a great job of showcasing the 12 young athletes in attendance, competitors in sports ranging from basketball to cross-country. From that group, they select a male and female Gatorade High School Player of the year. Nominations are based on achievement on the field, classroom and community.
This year, the honors on the girls side went to Skylar Diggins, a senior guard from Washington High in South Bend, Ind. who is staying home to attend Notre Dame in the fall. She posted per game averages of 26 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists per game in leading her team to a 26-1 record. Diggins is known for playing hard on both sides of the ball and her strong leadership ability. When she won the prestigious award, she dedicated it to her mother who was in attendance.
Her embrace with her parents as she came off the stage was the luncheon’s most touching moment—chicken skin all around. “I love my family,” she told me in the media room afterwards. “They’ve invested so much time, money and effort for me to play this game that I love and I definitely appreciate that.”
Notre Dame has something special in Diggins. She may be a beast on the court, but off the hardwood she’s got a killer smile and plenty of confidence. Interviews didn’t seem to faze her a bit. “I got to sit by Kevin Durant during the luncheon and I thought he was a very down to earth person,” she says. “This has been an amazing opportunity and blessing. I’m trying to take it all in.”
Diggins—who became the fourth girls basketball player to ever win the award, which included previous winners Candace Parker, Maya Moore and Tina Charles—was looking forward to attending the ESPYs in the evening to catch a glimpse of Kobe. “I’ll find him,” she says. “I want to pick his brain, but I don’t want to seem like a stalker.”
Diggins is already hard at work with her teammates at Notre Dame in preparation for the season and has also been putting in some time with the Team USA U-19 squad. “We’ve already started lifting and conditioning, playing a little pick-up,” she says. “It’s going to be great. Look out for Notre Dame next year.”
On the boys side, Brandon Knight of Ft. Lauderdale, FL was beat out for the POY award by Garrett Gilbert, a strong-armed quarterback from Austin, TX. Knight was limping around the event with a walking boot on his right foot, the result of turning over his ankle at the Nike Peach Jam.
Knight doesn’t believe the injury will need surgery and feels like he will be back on the court in a month. During the awards presentation, the projector showed some cool highlights of Knight on the court with his hair out, breaking ankles on the way to the rack while his locks floated behind him. “That was only for one game,” he says, shyly. “It’s just kind of a hassle when it’s out.”
Knight is a 6-3, lightning quick point guard considered by many the top recruit in the class of 2010. Known for his scoring and open court play, Knight dropped 32 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists per game last season in helping lead Pine Crest High to its second straight 3A state title. “Bringing another title home was the most important thing,” he says. When I asked Brandon to describe his game, he had this to say: “I’m a player who can score the basketball and also get teammates involved. If I’m not making an impact on the offensive end, I’m making it on defense. I try to impact the game from that side of the floor as well.”
Brandon pleaded the fifth when it came to offering any insight on his recruiting process. “It’s extremely early and I’m very open,” he says. “I have a list and I haven’t cut any schools so I’m still wide open.”
An exceptional student (4.0 unweighted GPA) Knight will be able to attend any school in the country. “I’m willing to go wherever I need to go that will help me get to the next level and also offer a good education.” When I asked Brandon what he wanted to study, he mentioned Mathematics and he caught me. I followed up by asking if he was planning on becoming the next John Nash and he laughed and mentioned that A Beautiful Mind was a good film.
Durant had about a dozen interviews following the luncheon. I’m pretty certain I was the last. Often times, this type of situation leads to a very brief interview. Not the case. Durant rolled up on me with a smile and said, “SLAM Magazine, how you feelin’ today?” We proceeded to discuss the real estate market in Seattle, the sneaker game, Sam Presti, going back to UT to earn his degree and much more. I will have our Q + A up in the coming days. Stay tuned. Many thanks to Gatorade and Josh Holland of Fleishman-Hillard PR for the hospitality and for doing away with the media nametag-stickers this year. They just don’t look right on a good suit.