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Brand Scorecard | Rating Jeter’s Tribute Ads

Two major brands, Nike’s Jordan brand and Gatorade, have produced tribute ads to Yankees Shortstop Derek Jeter, who retires this week. Which did a better job of expressing Jeter’s brand? Here’s our scorecard.


Produced by Nike’s Jordan brand, the spot features celebrities, athletes, firefighters, police, doormen and fans appropriating Jeter’s signature hat tip, under the line R2SPECT — integrating Jeter’s uniform number into the headline in an iconic manner. It debuted in July, at the time of Jeter’s 14th and final All-Star Game.


Produced by Gatorade, Jeter helped conceive of the ad as a ‘thank you to fans.’ The ad takes a narrative approach, following Jeter on his path to the stadium as he interacts with fans, signs baseballs for kids, walks on the field and — you guessed it — tips his cap to the stadium crowd. It debuted last week, in advance of Jeter’s final home games at Yankee Stadium.


Team-orientation B Jeter’s in uniform, at bat, in Yankee Stadium. Beyond that, not much here that connects him to his teammates. But he’s at the center of the broader community of baseball and New York. A- By focusing on fans, the ad makes them part of the team; the use of ‘My Way’ connects it to Yankee lore; the stadium and its environs highlight to his (rare) single-team career.
Effort B+ The entire ad, with celebrities, athletes, police and everyday fans tipping their hats to Jeter, seems hinged on the premise that people are acknowledging him for how he has played the game. It’s a bit of a hidden way to express the value, but it does come across. B Jeter’s engagement with fans shows him to be real, accessible and appreciative; he’s clearly making an effort to engage with his supporters.
Respect B+ As much as it’s the title of the ad, it does little to showcase Jeter’s respect for the game and its history. It does feature “Voice of God” announcer Bob Shephard introducing Jeter at bat, which is a nice touch. (And will be missed now that Jeter is retiring.) A The ad is full of little touches that convey Jeter’s sense of reverence for the game and his place in it: The way he pauses and looks at the crowd before he enters the stadium; the scene in monument park; the way he taps a sign with a quote from Joe DiMaggio before he steps onto the field.
Consistency B Even Red Sox fans tip their caps to him, which must mean he did something right. A- The tempo of his gait, tone of voice in engaging with fans in video is low-key, humble.
Clutch C He never swings the bat. Which is probably a good thing. Clutch is hard to convey without resorting to highlight reels, of which we’ve seen plenty. B+ When the owner of Stan’s says “I’ve been waiting for you to come in here since ‘98, at least,” Jeter quips dryly “You never invited me.” And then he signs a photo of himself. Cool under pressure!

OUR TAKE: “R2SPECT” is a brand testimonial ad. It works because it leverages familiar faces and team symbols. While it has a somber tone, it uses humor to good effect, particularly when the San Diego mascot realizes he’s a friar and lacks a hat. But it won’t age well, as kids will wonder who those people are. Ultimately, it delivers the message that the world respects Jeter.

“Made in New York,” on the other hand takes a “show, don’t tell” approach, conveying a lot through Jeter’s journey to and into the stadium. The Jeter brand comes through in a way that is timeless.

WINNER: Made in New York

Jeter’s Final Curtain

By Mike Kuczkowski

Derek Jeter has done a lot of amazing things on a baseball diamond. He’s amassed more than 3,450 hits, the sixth most of all time. He’s played more games and has more hits at shortstop than anyone, ever. And, he has won five World Series rings, most among active players.

With Jeter, though, it’s not so much about what he’s accomplished, but about how he’s accomplished it. Diving into the stands face first at full speed to catch a foul ball. Flipping a relay throw to nab the A’s Jeremy Giambi at the plate in the playoffs. And above all, a workmanlike approach to playing day-in, day-out for the most storied franchise in American sports. These intangibles, more than his box scores, have made him an icon. And, a new 90-second spot by Gatorade captures a lot of what I’d describe as Jeter’s ‘brand essence.’

The piece opens with a long shot of New York City, the skyscrapers, bridges and tabloids, and Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” playing in the background. (“And now, the end is near…”)

Close up of Jeter, being driven to a game. “You know what, I’ll walk from here,” he says and hoofs it to the stadium.

Girls squeal as he walks past. He high-fives kids on a playground. He is at ease waving at construction workers and autographing his photo at Stan’s Sports Bar across the street from Yankee Stadium. (“I’ve been wanting you to come in here since 1998, at least,” says Stan; “You never invited me,” quips Jeter. “Well you’re here now, thank God,” Stan replies.)

He helps an older woman with her cell phone, wades into the crowd in front of Yankee Stadium, is mobbed and signs autographs. Then, silently, he scans the retired numbers in Monument Field and dons his uniform in the clubhouse. Finally, after tapping a sign that reads “I want to thank the Good Lord for making me a Yankee” (A quote from Joe DiMaggio, another Yankee legend), #2 ascends the clubhouse stairs, onto the field, where he tips his cap to the cheering crowd.

Jeter is giving us a master class in brand expression. Here are some lessons:

  • Know Your Brand: Jeter is a winner, and in interviews he often talks about that as the only thing that matters. But, winning in and of itself is not a brand value for Jeter. His brand is about effort, consistency, clutch performance and a team orientation. And in that way, his brand is built of things that we can all aspire to, even if we lack elite talent. This piece shows his accessibility, his grace, his humor and his appreciation for what baseball means for fans.
  • Know Your Mythology: There’s a shot in the video of a young boy on the steps of Yankee Stadium screaming and jumping up and down, clutching what we presume is a Jeter-signed baseball. It’s a timeless image. In an age where our sports heroes’ behavior seems somewhere between flawed and deplorable, it’s great to reconnect with the mythology of a sports icon and a kid.  The black-and-white execution makes it timeless, subtly reinforcing that cue.
  • Take Ownership: Sometimes, a brand leader just needs to take the reins. Jeter was in the driver’s seat of this creatively. According to AdWeek, it was Jeter’s idea to create a video of him thanking Yankees fans. While Gatorade roped off the blocks around the stadium for this spot, the creative director says they “just kind of let Jeter go,” which comes through in the piece. Jeter also wrote the copy for a print ad that will run this weekend (“Your grit fueled my will… you helped make me who I am”), while this spot is airing on broadcast outlets. And, perhaps most importantly, he chose the song.
  • Leverage Symbols: Speaking of which, “My Way” is a brilliant choice. Any Yankees fan knows that when the Yankees win, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blares over the PA system. I remember taking my wife to a Yankee playoff game in 2000. When Sinatra sang, “I want to be a part of it,” it expressed exactly what it felt like to be in that ballpark with 50,000 other New Yorkers. By using another Sinatra song as the soundtrack for this piece, Jeter links directly back to that symbol, striking a perfect note. As does the DiMaggio reference.
  • Be Authentic: Jeter is a multi-millionaire, model-dating sports icon, but he also has an innate ability to connect with people. It’s the strongest aspect of this piece. Jeter does not seem aloof; he seems accessible. His interactions with fans don’t seem forced, they seem real.  

It’s worth noting that there is not a single highlight-reel moment of Jeter on the field in this piece. No home runs. No All-Star games. No double plays. Just a thank you to the fans.

Well done, Gatorade. And, of course, well done Jeter. Nailed it.