Coke ads insert different flavors into memorable basketball moments

Dive Brief:

  • Coca-Cola launched a multichannel campaign for its flavored colas that includes TV commercials during March Madness and a social influencer push. The “Unbelievably Delicious” effort highlights Coca-Cola and its zero-sugar variety with cherry, vanilla, cherry vanilla or orange vanilla flavors, per information emailed to Marketing Dive.
  • The brand’s “Unbelievable Double Take” spots digitally insert images of Coca-Cola flavors into footage of memorable moments from the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament, including North Carolina State’s famed buzzer-beating victory over Houston in 1983. The brand also is running two spots titled “Pit Stop” and “First Time” that show mythical half-human creatures trying the flavors and which extend across OOH, social, mobile, online, retail and in-person at the NCAA tournament.
  • By pairing nostalgia for memorable sports moments with fantasy themes, Coke is reaching for a broad audience. Further extending the reach is an influencer campaign starring identical twin sisters Vanessa and Veronica Merrell as “flavor curators” who demonstrate their favorite pairings of cola flavors and snacks on Instagram. The Merrell Twins have 1.6 million followers on Instagram, and another 4.4 million combined on TikTok, per details shared by email.

Dive Insight:

To tap into interest around March Madness — which returned after last year’s cancellation — Coca-Cola created the “Unbelievable Double Take” ad using video tech to play on nostalgia at a time when ad production is still limited by the effects of the pandemic. The ads were made in partnership with Warner Media, Ryff and UM, which uses what Coke bills as first-time, cutting-edge 3D technology to render product models into into iconic sport scenes. 

TV ratings for the college basketball tournament have slipped from two years ago, a decline attributed to pandemic disruptions, but it still generates significant viewership as a sporting event. 

To broaden the appeal beyond sports fans, “Pit Stop” and “First Time,” made by creative agency Anomaly and production partners Smuggler, Work Editorial and MPC LA, tapped a different thread of nostalgia, for 80s movies. The campaign around these ads is extended via OOH and animated broadcast elements, as well as on social, owned mobile experiences, online, retail and in-person at the NCAA tournament, through a partnership with “a council of other Coca-Cola agencies” per the email. Coke in December started a global review of its media and creative planning and buying practices, including its agency appointments worldwide.

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The influencer campaign with the Merrell Twins can reach a younger audience among their followers on Instagram, which has an estimated user base of 140 million people, according to data compiled by Statista. Influencer campaigns have become more prominent in the past few years as brands seek to cut through ad clutter and reach younger consumers who tend to be heavy users of social media. Collaborations with influencers last year saw 57% more reach and impact compared with 2019, according to a report by influencer marketing firm Klear. Generation Z contributed to a 9% increase in sponsored content produced by influencers, the study found.

Those positive metrics have led a variety of brands to develop influencer campaigns on Instagram. Among the more recent examples, Bayer’s Alka-Seltzer brand of pain reliever this month enlisted the bartenders from Bravo TV’s “Vanderpump Rules” to create a series on Instagram’s IGTV video platform showing how to make mocktails while recovering from holiday celebrations. Burger chain McDonald’s in February hosted a miniseries on IGTV as part of its celebrations for Lunar New Year, while teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch last fall streamed streamed a seven-part series about mental health and wellness in the LGBTQ community on the platform.

As one of the world’s biggest advertisers, Coke has been active with a variety of campaigns aimed at younger viewers. Its recent “Open That Coca-Cola” effort for its reformulated Coca-Cola Zero Sugar in Europe included a social media activation with music and dancing to encourage consumer participation. The campaigns come as the company seeks to rebound from the pandemic, which adversely affected sales in out-of-home settings like restaurants, bars and sports stadiums. In discussing its plans for this year, Coke CFO John Murphy said it was working on targeted experiential campaigns that were data-driven, occasion-based and always-on.

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