Looking way back to the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, and specifically when Gatorade saw it as the perfect opportunity to celebrate the sports drink’s 50th anniversary. That’s right, we’re talking about when the beverage company decided to re-air a digitally remastered version of their amazing “Be Like Mike”commercial.
According to a statement from Morgan Flatley, Gatorade’s chief marketing officer, at the time “The return of Gatorade’s iconic ‘Be Like Mike’ commercial during NBA All-Star Weekend is the perfect complement to our brand’s continued 50th anniversary celebration in 2015. What better way to celebrate our first athlete spokesman, Michael Jordan; the NBA, one of Gatorade’s longest tenured partners; and the national revival of one of MJ’s favorite Gatorade flavors, Citrus Cooler.”
This was, and is, is a super cool idea. Not only is the commercial a fun bit with an extremely catchy tune, but it’s absolutely timeless. We have to believe that whenever a brand decides to feature an athlete in one of their commercials, the hope is that it stirs the kind of buzz that this one did. With that in mind, here are the seven athlete commercials that we feel stood above the rest so far.
1. Lil’ Penny trash talks for Nike
Anfernee Hardaway was an absolute boss in the early 1990s when he played for the Orlando Magic. A 6-foot-7 guard with handle, hops, and athleticism. Not only was his nickname “Penny” pretty sweet, but he had some of the coolest shoes on the market. Nike took full advantage of this in 1994, when it started putting out the “Lil’ Penny” campaign, which featured a trash talking Penny puppet voiced by Chris Rock. This is the start of it all. And it’s hilarious.
2. Coca-Cola makes Mean Joe Greene smile
Pittsburgh Steeler Mean Joe Greene was such a scary and intimidating dude. However, this 1979 spot showed that all Mean Joe needed in order to crack a smile was a Coke from his biggest fan. This kid handed over the soda, and Mean Joe gave up his game jersey. It truly pulled at the heartstrings. Catch!
3. Charles Barkley is not a role model
Charles Barkley was one of the best and most physical power forwards to ever play the game of basketball. That’s what he was paid to do, and Nike let the world know this with their 1993 ad. Barkley is no role model, and he’s certainly not meant to raise your kids. Chuck is meant to dominate on the basketball court. And he did.
4. Bird and Jordan battle for a Big Mac
Nothing like a little friendly competition to get the juices flowing. And there are few athletes more competitive than Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. McDonald’s used this idea for their 1993 advertisement. Bird and Jordan battling it out in a shooting contest. There were plenty of absurd, impossible shots that hit nothing but net. First one to miss had to watch the other one eat a Big Mac. We’re lovin’ it.
5. Tiger Woods juggles a golf ball
This may be the end of the line for Tiger Woods, but when he first burst onto the scene, the world of golf had never witnessed anything like it. Tiger was power personified and skilled beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. Nike recognized a perfect spokesman when they saw one, and their 2007 commercial for the Nike Golf brand showed just how talented Woods truly was. All 23-year-old Tiger needed was a ball, a wedge, and his God-given natural ability. How he juggled this golf ball so effortlessly is beyond us. But the way he struck that drive at the end of the spot is pure magic.
6. Bo Knows
Bo Jackson may be the best athlete to ever walk the face of the earth. He played pro football. He played pro baseball. He did it all. Bo was the perfect man to represent the Nike cross-trainers that you could use for anything. So in 1989 they put out the “Bo Knows” campaign to show everyone that Jackson was plain good at everything. But of course, we already knew that.
7. Arnold Palmer is SportsCenter
Golf legend Arnold Palmer is so smooth. But the only thing smoother is probably the drink he made famous. A little bit of iced tea. A little bit of lemonade. Put ‘em together and enjoy your delicious Arnold Palmer. ESPN utilized this for one of their “This is SportsCenter” advertisements. The 2012 spot features Palmer in the network cafeteria, perfectly making his famous drink. Anchors Scott Van Pelt and Stuart Scott recognized how cool this was, as they stood there in awe. The only thing cooler than this has to be what Palmer did that same day. Check it out here.