Beverage giant Coca-Cola understands the power of sports marketing. It took its efforts to a new level last year with the 2010 Coke Zero Countdown at the NCAA Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis last March, developed by Atlanta-based integrated marketing agency MELT.
To generate even more excitement around the college basketball championships, Coke’s “Countdown to Zero” featured a three-hour show that included a performance by rock band Daughtry and a pep rally hosted by Ryan Seacrest. To extend the concert’s reach, the event was promoted via social media sites of all the celebrities and companies involved. “By producing the first concert to be streamed live through Facebook Connect from a major sporting event, we helped Coke conquer uncharted territory,” says Vince Thompson, president and CEO of MELT.
Katie Bayne, Coke’s president and general manager, Sparkling Beverages, says it was “fun to watch new models of media take shape. We wanted to take this event to people globally so all the fans who couldn’t be in Indianapolis could still enjoy this experience.”
In addition to 50 million impressions from pre-promotion efforts, the Countdown to Zero program delivered a highly engaged audience that watched for an average of 32 minutes and shared the experience with more than 450,000 Facebook friends, reports Thompson.
“This was a great example of collaboration,” he says. “By bringing so many disparate people and properties together, we were able to globalize a local event and integrate multiple brands under one property.”
Thompson says one of the lessons for brands from the Final Four promotion is that social media strategies can significantly extend fan involvement with live sporting events. “A decade ago, fans would watch the NCAA final games on Saturday and Monday nights,” he says. “Now it’s a weekend-long activity that can be shared with friends around the country, providing substantial incremental value to brands. We have even bigger plans for this year’s Final Four.”
In developing marketing strategies, Thompson says MELT looks at the assets of the brand, the event and the teams to develop a personalized experience for the consumer. “We look at it as building a long-term engagement with the fan,” he says. “The networks have elevated the TV viewing experience, and more consumers participate in fantasy leagues and sports gaming, raising the overall level of fan sophistication.”
By leveraging digital, social and mobile effectively, Thompson says brands can use sports to build long-lasting fan experiences. For example, MELT created a branded digital and broadcast TV network—Full Throttle Television (FTTV)—that focuses on National Hot Rod Association events sponsored by its client, Full Throttle Energy Drink, a Coca-Cola product. “We brought in multiple partners, including Ford, the U.S. Army, Summit Racing and Carhartt, and spun other shows out of FTTV,” says Thompson.
A global content distribution platform, FTTV offers fans an up-close look at drag racing drivers, crew members and teams, while offering interactive experiences at all 23 NHRA races. “Coca-Cola was looking for a more innovative way to drive brand preference, maximize its return on investment, and better connect with the 22 million U.S. fans of the NHRA,” says Thompson.
In its first year, FTTV has generated more than 15 million impressions worldwide with access to 20 million viewers. In 2010, premiered on male-oriented networks MavTV and TUFF TV, reaching an additional 40 million viewers. Also, more than 1 million fans at NHRA races took part in the “Full Throttle Hard Working Garage” activation, which included beverage samples.
For Coca-Cola and other brands, the goal of a multimedia sports marketing campaign is to generate more activity at retail and on the shelf. “The ability to sell something is paramount, and we have to understand what we can and can’t do in a sports environment,” Thompson says.
MELT, an acronym for Marketing, Entertainment, Lifestyle and Trends, is an agency whose capabilities include social media, original content development and production, events and experiential programming, brand strategy, consumer research, retail promotions, and cause and social ethics marketing. For more information: www.meltatl.com.