'Be Like Mike' to re-air during ASG

Twenty-three years, appropriately, after the "Be Like Mike" jingle was the song in every young sports fan's head, Gatorade is bringing it back for the brand's 50th anniversary.

The ad, which first ran in the late summer of 1991 after the Chicago Bulls won their first of six titles, will run again, after being digitally remastered, on the All-Star broadcasts this weekend.

"The return of Gatorade's iconic 'Be Like Mike' commercial during NBA All-Star Weekend is the perfect complement to our brand's continued 50th anniversary celebration in 2015," Gatorade chief marketing officer Morgan Flatley said in a statement. "What better way to celebrate our first athlete spokesman, Michael Jordan; the NBA, one of Gatorade's longest tenured partners; and the national revival of one of MJ's favorite Gatorade flavors, Citrus Cooler."

The commercial features a 29-year-old Michael Jordan playing with kids with Gatorade's original lyrics and catchy tune in the background.

The story behind how the commercial was conceived is one of advertising lore.

After Jordan's agent, David Falk, negotiated a 10-year, $13.5 million deal for his client, the pressure was on the sports-drink titan to welcome its first official athlete partner with a bang.

Gatorade had originally planned to run a spot in which a kid from Yugoslavia was writing a letter to Jordan, but at the last minute Gatorade's ad firm at the time, Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, brought in its creative chief Bernie Pitzel to take a final shot.

He was given 72 hours to come up with an idea and present it to Gatorade executives.

During that time, Pitzel sat down to watch Disney's recreation of "The Jungle Book" with one of his sons. That's when he heard the song "I Wanna Be Like You."

"I knew a million people wanted to be like Mike," Pitzel said in the book "First In Thirst," which chronicles the history of the soft drink.

But Disney officials wanted $350,000 to use the song for a five-week run. So Pitzel wrote the lyrics from scratch and brought in songwriters Ira Antelis and Steve Shafer to create the music.

"The dunking made him a god, and what we were trying to do was humanize him and bring him down to a level to make him more acceptable," said Pitzel, whose then-13-year-old son was the boy in the spot who unsuccessfully tried to dribble through his legs.

When Gatorade officials were presented with the spot, they knew this was the one. People just had to get used to calling him Mike, which he hadn't been called much since coming to the NBA.

But Jordan didn't have a problem with it.

"You can call me Mike, Michael or Air," he told a member of the press who saw the spot for the first time at an unveiling in August 1991. "I'll get used to it."

The spot played in movie theaters, and the music was such a hit that it ran on radio stations. Gatorade even made the single available and sold 100,000 copies at $4.95 each.

Gatorade was invented by four doctors at the University of Florida in 1965. They have made more than $600 million for the trust that takes a piece of Gatorade's royalties and nearly $250 million for the University of Florida.

Editor's note: Darren Rovell is ESPN.com's sports business reporter and the author of "First In Thirst."

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Darren Rovell discusses the iconic "Be Like Mike" ad, which is being brought back for All-Star events.

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