PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: The Future Of Hydration Is Hyper-Personalized

PSFK 2017 Speaker Interview: The Future Of Hydration Is Hyper-Personalized

With Gatorade Gx, PSFK 2017 speakers Xavi Cortadellas and Tucker Fort are merging design, tech and hydration

Matt Vitone
  • 12 may 2017

Leading up to our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19, we are looking back at some of the key speakers from years past. Xavi Cortadellas of Gatorade and Tucker Fort of Smart Design will be returning to give an update at PSFK 2017 – Get your tickets today!

Gatorade has been the leader in sports hydration for over 50 years, but as consumer tastes and the needs of athletes continue to change, the company has been looking into new ways to stay on the cutting edge of sports science. Enter Gatorade Gx: a personalized hydration platform that combines years of research into athlete needs with new technologies and innovative design features. The new system uses pods of concentrated, customized Gatorade formula that attach to a smart cap. The cap monitors fluid intake, while a smart patch worn by the player provides real-time fluid tracking.

Xavi Cortadellas, Head of Innovation and Design at Gatorade, and Tucker Fort, a partner at Smart Design, have spent years refining the Gatorade Gx system. The pair took the stage last year at PSFK to share their work with top athletes and teams around the world. This year, with the impending commercial launch of Gx products to consumers, they are set to return to PSFK 2017 to provide an update on the platform. We recently had a chance to speak with Fort and Cortadellas, who shared how Gatorade is using the Gx platform to provide a data-centric, hyper-personalized product to athletes.

At last year’s conference, you discussed the rollout of the Gatorade Gx system. What have you learned in the last 12 months?

Fort: Last summer, we rolled out the platform to 27 different teams across multiple sports, across multiple countries. We’ve had a lot of really positive feedback with those professional teams using different components of the system. When we look forward to next year, we’re looking to double the number of professional teams who are using the Gx platform. In the course of the last year, we’ve learned a lot of things about how to better design the system for them and how to optimize it for their needs. We definitely have some exciting stuff coming up for later this year and into next year, which includes things like a new version of the actual pod itself, and additional formulas and flavors. Then we are going to be releasing an updated version 2.0 of all the digital components.

Some of the things that we learned with the pro teams last year is that they’re using different parts of the system in so many different contexts, whether it’s in their trainer’s space, in the locker room, on the sideline, on the road, in one-on-one meetings. We’ve really had to refine and develop a lot of new ways for coaches and athletes to interact with the platform where it suits them. Instead of forcing them to use a single touchpoint, we’ve created many different touchpoints to meet them where they need to be at any given time.

How have players liked using Gatorade Gx?

Cortadellas: For the players, they feel the performance advantage and they are using the Gx platform because they feel that the platform works. They’re able to know if they are hydrating properly throughout their training sessions and games. Which also reduces the risk of injury. Overall, I would say that the number one benefit is that they are paying more attention. Once you start telling them what they need to drink, this is your bottle, etc. the overall attention to hydration before, during, and after the game or after practice increases dramatically. That generates the benefits for the players and also for the staff supporting the players.

Fort: Ultimately, we’re really trying to change behaviors. There are many different ways that this platform can start to get at that, but like Xavi said you really have to meet them where it’s most relevant. You can’t force anything upon them. One of the parts of the system which has been really impactful is the Gx Station, a connected way-in and way-out platform that lives in the pro-athlete locker room. That’s become a really interesting touch point for the athletes because it’s something they interact with every day. It really reinforces the behavior of when and how they should be hydrating. It also gives the coaches a really valuable set of data around fluid balance and some other key metrics. That’s an example of a part of a system which is a requirement but because of where it lives and how it really brings the platform to life for people every day, it’s had a much bigger impact than we had expected.

The Gx system is a great example of combining the consumer’s desire for customization with product. How did you incorporate customization in a meaningful way?

Cortadellas: One of the lessons of this project is that customization means different things for different users. If you talk with these pro-athletes, the guy who really cares about performance in a deeper way, he is looking for the performance advantage. The customization aspect of designing your bottle, and putting the name on it, yeah, it’s a nice compliment but it’s not the main focus. They are looking for a performance advantage. On the other side of the spectrum, if you talk with high school kids or everyday athletes, it’s different. Just give me the flavor that I want and also the ability to personalize the bottle with my name, my team colors, my number, or even do a special design of this bottle. That’s been one of the components that we have been working on endlessly during this year to really surprise the athletes and consumers on how many options they will have to personalize this bottle. That will be the hook for the launch of the Gx platform commercially sometime in fall this year.

The Gx Smart Cap is IoT-enabled. We’ve seen a lot of talk about how IoT is changing areas such as home and automobiles, but how do you think IoT will play out in sports?

Fort: There’s been a huge growth in IoT and in connected tracking in sports over the past few years. What we see from our perspective is that even though there’s been a lot of activity there, we’re still at the early stages of understanding how sports and technology are going to truly come together. Researchers and teams are just now starting to figure out how to pull all this disparate data together to look at the bigger picture. What’s been happening over the past couple of years is there’s been a lot of work done in very narrow areas of sports and technology. The next frontier is looking for the patterns and correlations between those areas of data.

We think it’s really going to be changing very rapidly in the next two to three years. I think that this will really help athletes get smarter. It’s going to impact everything they need from equipment, to training, to nutrition, to sleep, to their mental health. As Xavi said before, I think our job in developing new products and services is how can we enable these technologies without becoming a burden on the athletes or the influencers who surround them. It’s really important that they stay focused on sports, performance and training. These things need to be in support of those activities. They can’t take over what that the athletes are trying to focus on.

Gatorade is one of the most iconic sports brands in America, but it’s also one that is constantly changing and innovating. How does Gatorade strike that balance between innovation and remaining true to its core principles?

Cortadellas: I think for us it’s very easy. We put the athletes front and center. We ensure that everything that we do is to solve an athlete’s problem and to make these athletes perform better on the field. Another important part is that we honor all the science that we can behind the brand. Anything that we put into our products, on our service platforms or our equipment needs to be formulated by science in order to really provide an advantage to these athletes.

Fort: I’ve worked with many different brands and businesses over the years and the clarity that Gatorade has around that science-focused vision that Xavi mentioned has definitely made innovating easier. You can very easily identify things that are off-brand and off-core. That makes us able to focus on things that are going to be impactful much more quickly.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Innovation with Purpose.’ How do each of you find purpose in your work?

Cortadellas: For us as a brand, we want to better educate our athletes to make them better on the field. I feel that the more they know about their bodies, the more it helps them to do better in sports in a safe environment, feel better and live a healthy style. We believe that this is part of our purpose. Obviously, we’re not the only brand with this mission, so we need to partner with other brands, other entities, the coaches, and all the people around the athletes to make this happen. That’s what we aspire to do.

Fort: From my perspective, I really find purpose in this area between optimism and reality. To be an innovator you have to really believe that there are better experiences for people around the corner. You have to really focus on understanding those deep human needs to really find meaning and purpose in the work that we’re trying to unlock. That being said, you can’t just only be optimistic. You have to really balance that with the reality of what it takes to get ideas into the world. For me, that purpose, I find it in that balance between being optimistic that there are better experiences around the corner, but at the same time, understanding what it takes to bring those into the world. If we just have great ideas but they stay on paper or in the workshop, it doesn’t make a difference. That’s one of the main drivers for me.

Gatorade | Smart Design

Leading up to our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19, we are looking back at some of the key speakers from years past. Xavi Cortadellas of Gatorade and Tucker Fort of Smart Design will be returning to give an update at PSFK 2017 – Get your tickets today!

Leading up to our PSFK 2017 conference on May 19, we are looking back at some of the key speakers from years past. Xavi Cortadellas of Gatorade and Tucker Fort of Smart Design will be returning to give an update at PSFK 2017 – Get your tickets today!

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