Gatorade’s Chinese NBA ’36 Stratagems’ Campaign

NBA sponsor Gatorade is leveraging ancient military tactics texts in its latest street skills basketball campaign in China.


A new campaign from the energy drinks brand and its agency DDB Shanghai brings ancient Chinese classic ‘The 36 stratagems’ to initiative promoting the NBA Finals in June.


Spearheaded by a TV spot, but also included a viral video launched through social media sites including Sina Microblgog, Tom Sports, QQ Sports and Hoop China, players use several tricks from the 36 stratagems to get past their opposition. They are, of course, boosted and refreshed by Gatorade.


Stratagems such as ‘Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west’, ‘The cicada sheds its skin’, and ‘The beauty trap’ are used in creative and skilful ways


Driven by the viral, viewers are encouraged to upload their own videos of their streetball skills that fit into one of the 36 stratagems. A demo team will tour China to boost the initiative and bring it alive. The best three entrants will be chosen by Gatorade to participate in a national streetball training camp run by the brand’s sports science centre.


The 36 Stratagems itself, a text almost as well known in China as Sun Tzu’s legendary ‘Art of War’, outlines unorthodox or deceptive ruses used in politics, warfare and civil interaction. So the Gatorade work leverages the text’s well-known Chinese idioms/stratagems and applies them to the combative world of Chinese street basketball.


The objective was to promote the NBA Finals in China with a campaign that China’s youth could relate to and one that they could personalise: thus playing on the themes of heritage and individuality.




China is reported to have 300m plus basketball fans – 99% of whom have played some form of streetball. So targeting this group through relevant streetball creative ought to help Gatorade build stronger links between the brand, the drink and sports occasion consumption.


By linking NBA interest with the amateur game the work aims to connect its product to improved performance across the entire sport.







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