Ten years ago, I had heard that one of the researchers who invented Gatorade, Dr. Robert Cade, was sick. I had so desperately wanted to do a book on one of the greatest stories in sports marketing. With some luck, I was able to fly down to the University of Florida and work on the project. The result was my book called "First In Thirst."
This year is the 50th anniversary of the drink, and this week Florida is honoring the doctors who created it -- Dana Shires, Alejandro de Quesada, Jim Free and Cade, who died in 2007 and will be represented by his family. Oct. 2, 1965, was the first time Gatorade was used by Florida players during a game.
There are so many great stories, but here are the five things you need to know about the iconic beverage:
1. Gatorade wasn't the first salt and sugar solution for football players. There were plenty of drinks out there. In fact, Florida State had a drink called Seminole Firewater that was invented by the team doctor three years before Gatorade was created. Rutgers had Sportade, and Nebraska had Huskerade. But Florida happened to have a sports drink that was attached to a Steve Spurrier-led team that was great in the second halves of games. The drink's impact on Florida's performance was played up in the media. The Gators lost only twice in 1966, once to Georgia in Jacksonville, Florida. As legend has it, the beverage wasn't available at that game because Florida trainers were driven off the road and the batches were destroyed.
2. The doctors offered to sell Gatorade to Florida outright for $10,000. The school passed. Eventually, through the legal system, the university was awarded a cut from Gatorade that it continues to receive today. The most recent update has the school's total royalty take at $280 million.
3. The first Gatorade victory shower is often attributed to the 1986 New York Giants because dunking Bill Parcells was so much a part of their Super Bowl XXI-winning season. But as part of my research for my book, I found out the Chicago Bears doused Mike Ditka with Gatorade when they beat the Minnesota Vikings to clinch the NFC Central Division title in the 1984 season. Even that might not have been the first Gatorade shower, as video surfaced from a Giants-Redskins game a month before the Bears lifted the orange bucket that suggests the Giants were indeed first, although the celebratory splash started two years before their Super Bowl-winning season.
4. Gatorade has been lauded for its original tune "Be Like Mike," which it rolled out in 1991 when it signed Michael Jordan. The original idea had been to use the song "I Wanna Be Like You" from the "Jungle Book," but Disney's licensing fee was deemed to be too expensive.
5. Fifteen years ago, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were bidding to purchase food company Quaker Oats, which had acquired Gatorade in 1983. Pepsi won out in part because Coke board member Warren Buffett expressed doubts about Gatorade's potential. Even though Coke's Powerade has grown in recent years, Gatorade still leads the sports drink market by a mile.