Kenny Mitchell’s Playbook for Digital Innovation

July 13, 2016

By Molly Knol

Kenny Mitchell likes to keep Gatorade's marketing at the top of its game. As head of consumer engagement, he oversees Gatorade’s integrated marketing efforts, including advertising, branded content, digital, social media, and public relations. Kenny is a featured speaker at this month’s ANA Digital & Social Media Conference, and he shares his insights on how Gatorade connects with athletes daily through digital and social innovation.

What are some of the innovative ways you’re connecting with athletes via social media?
The way our athlete consumer interacts with social media is always evolving so it’s important for us to have a mix of tactics out there and continually push ourselves to try new things. As an example, we recently partnered with Snapchat for Super Bowl 50. It was something new that was also very authentic to our brand and the payoff was significant. The Snapchat Gatorade Dunk lens performed well, resulting in more than 165 million views and a 30.2 percent lift in ad awareness (152 index to CPG consumable norm) among other strong engagement metrics. 

What role does storytelling play in promoting the Gatorade brand?
Storytelling has been a critical aspect of our brand strategy and success since the days of “Be Like Mike.” When it comes to storytelling, our communications efforts largely fall into one of two areas: Product and Equity. The equity campaigns focus on inspiration, aspiration, and brand love, so storytelling is hugely important. The campaign has to have an authentic athlete insight at its core to resonate with our target audience of competitive athletes.

Last summer we wanted to honor Serena Williams’ amazing accomplishments as she headed to the U.S. Open to try for the Calendar Slam. When we saw footage of the interview with her as a young girl saying she’d “like other people to be like her,” we knew we had something powerful and the rest of the story flowed naturally from there.

But the program went beyond just an ad. We know our athlete consumer is used to being communicated with/to across a variety of mediums and in a variety of ways so we also used social, PR and an art-focused, out-of-home execution to complement the film. 

How do you ensure consistent messaging across digital and social platforms?
It’s a balancing act and it definitely takes discipline to pull off. We’ve evolved from relying solely on planned campaigns to being nimbler and marketing in real time. That was an important change for us, but can make consistency more challenging to achieve.

One of the important guideposts we use for our digital and social content is our content strategy. This involves placing all pieces of content, from basic social posts to long-form content, on a spectrum of anticipated cultural impact from minimum to significant. We do this to ensure that we have a discipline around all digital and social content and its role within all of our communication efforts.

Another important piece of ensuring our executions are on point is Mission Control, which Gatorade launched about six years ago. Mission Control allows us to interact with athletes in real time, grow our channels in meaningful ways and optimize our efforts by listening and learning.


Thank you to Kenny Mitchell for sitting down with us! Register for ANA's 2016 Digital & Social Media Conference, July 20–22, to catch his presentation on how Gatorade connects with athletes daily through digital and social innovation. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from CMOs and top digital marketers from Visa, Target, Dollar Shave Club, GrubHub, and PUMA!   

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