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Volume 21 No. 2
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Forty Under 40: John Shea


Company: Gatorade
Title: Senior director, sports marketing
Age: 39
Where born: Presque Isle, Maine
Education: Boston College (B.S., marketing), University of Michigan (MBA)
Career background: Consultant at EMI; M&A work at Liberty Mutual; joined Pepsi after business school. Sports marketing manager, NFL/MLB, PepsiCo, 2003; senior marketing manager, Gatorade Sports Marketing, 2008; senior director, Gatorade sports marketing, 2010
Family: Wife, Nora; children Julia (9), Will (7), Chloe (5) and Ryan (4 months)

Favorite app: Uber, Twitter, Flashlight.
Favorite way to unwind: Men’s league hockey.
Worst habit: Never carry any cash in my wallet.
Causes supported: Korey Stringer Institute, Chicago Sports Council.
I have a fear of … : Nothing; no fears. “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero only one.”
Most adventurous thing I’ve ever done is … : Paragliding in the Swiss Alps.
2014 will be a good year if … : My family stays healthy and happy and a Boston team wins another championship.


As soon as PepsiCo acquired Gatorade in 2001 as part of its $13.4 billion Quaker Oats purchase, there was chafing between sports marketers at both entities. Gatorade’s growth was propelled by one of the industry’s best in-house sports marketing shops, and it had rights with nearly every top sports property — and a roster of athletes headed by Michael Jordan. Pepsi vied with Coke for top sports properties and athletes, so naturally, there was friction.

SBJ Podcast:
Executive Editor Abraham Madkour and project editor Mark Mensheha talk about the Forty Under 40 selection process and the class of 2014.

As one of the few sports marketers to work on both sides of the Pepsi/Gatorade fence, John Shea offers proof that the two sides of Pepsi’s beverage portfolio are working more in tandem. Those who work with him laud his knowledge and experience across PepsiCo and the sports landscape.

“John’s overall knowledge of the sports marketplace at both the league and club level is unsurpassed,”  said Keith Wachtel, NHL executive vice president of global partnerships, who has worked with Shea for more than a decade. “His passion, loyalty and dedication to the Gatorade brand is what makes John so successful.”

Shea has been helping to direct Gatorade’s marketing at a time when the brand was repositioning from a sports drink to sports nutrition brand, echoing changes in the market. “Look at the trends across the sports performance space: sports nutrition, weight training, and specialization and customization,” he said. “Now, all that is taking off, and we’re in the middle of all that.”

The idea is to recast one of the most powerful brands in sports from sports beverage to sports fuel. From a marketing perspective, the assets are still there. “We’ve got 1.4 billion impressions [annually] through our sideline deals,” he said, “and now in-game [product] integration is the holy grail and we’ve had that for a long time.”

It’s gone from “Be Like Mike”  to an approach more focused on performance. Either way, there’s badge value for everyday athletes.

“We’re helping elite athletes achieve goals through innovation,” said Shea, uttering words that might also be heard at Nike or Under Armour. “If we stay true to those principles, we’ll be fine.”

— Terry Lefton