Coke Tests Lounges In Pursuit Of Youth

NEW YORK Coca-Cola, already a big believer in branded entertainment, is teaming up with Clear Channel Radio in a co-sponsorship deal that it hopes will bring some “energy” to two of its brands.

As part of a Dallas pilot program, “lounges” inside Clear Channel studios have been created and named after two Coke brands: the Tab Energy Lounge and Full-Throttle Garage. In what amounts to a rights-naming deal, Coke is sponsoring the lounges, which will feature guest musical artists, led by such popular acts as Dave Navarro and Los Lonely Boys.

Video and audio of the performances will be streamed exclusively on Clear Channel Dallas-area radio stations. Listeners can win free tickets by tuning in, and the names of the lounges are mentioned on the stations.

The new sponsorship is a first of its kind for Coke, said Randy Meza, director of marketing activation, Coca-Cola North America. “It’s a new [marketing] intersection that combines music and energy,” he said. “It’s a relevant experience for consumers and our retail partners as well.”

If Coke is happy with the results, the program may be expanded to additional markets such as New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and Seattle, among others, the companies said.

J.D. Freeman, a Clear Channel regional vp, said the promotion reinforces the “personal connection” that marketers increasingly seek to establish with their customers. And the venues, he said, provide an “environment where artists can connect with their fans, both in the lounge and on their computer screens,” a critical medium for Coke’s core audience.

Coke was the leading product placement advertiser on prime-time TV in the first quarter of this year, with more than 2,500 product exposures, according to a report released last week by Nielsen Media Research. Most of those placements were tied to its sponsorship of Fox hit American Idol, and are part of its broader strategy of connecting with a key consumer segment for soft drinks-kids, teens and young adults.