Fox Finds the Perfect Sponsor for Its 1950s-Era Grease Revival: Coca-Cola

Product placements aplenty in Sunday's live musical

Fox didn't let a little thing like Grease Live's 1950s setting stand in the way of finding a brand partner for Sunday's three-hour live musical event. The network has partnered with Coca-Coca, which will sponsor Grease Live with period-appropriate integrations.

The beverage will be featured prominently in Grease's diner scene, with retro logos, signs and products. It will also be featured in a passive placement, on the vending machine in the opening of the show. 

Coca-Cola will also execute digital and social promotions related to the event, including Snapchat activations during the weekend and on Sunday night.

"Grease and Coca-Cola are timeless icons of Americana that bring friends and family together over great music and refreshing taste," said Katie Miller, vp of connections, Coca-Coca North America, in a statement. "The production will include iconic Coca-Cola signage and performers will 'taste the feeling' of Coca-Cola on-stage during the show."

This marks Coca-Cola's return to sponsoring a major Fox music event. The brand had previously been a longtime sponsor of American Idol, but ended its 13-year partnership in December 2014.

Grease Live is the first live musical for Fox, which hopes to attract an audience similar to the 11.5 million viewers who tuned in for The Wiz Live on NBC last month. That was a big improvement from 2014's Peter Pan Live, which attracted 9.21 million, but didn't come close to The Sound of Music Live in 2013, which drew 18.6 million total viewers.

As networks continue to embrace the live musical, brand integrations are a key to financial success. NBC was forced to air more ads during The Wiz Live last month after Walmart did not return as a partner. The retailer had been lead sponsor for NBC's The Sound of Music Live and Peter Pan Live.

"They seemed probably a little bit longer, but there were the same number of interruptions," said NBC Entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt. Left to find a new partner for The Wiz, NBC ultimately signed a smaller deal with Reddi-wip.

Sunday's three-hour Grease Live event is based on both the original 1971 musical and the 1978 movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John (this time around, Julianne Hough stars as Sandy, Aaron Tveit plays Danny and Vanessa Hudgens is Rizzo). "We are taking cinematic elements that you find in the film in the way it's being shot, and we are taking live theatrical elements, and we are combining them together in a way I don't think anyone has seen before," said executive producer Marc Platt.

Unlike the NBC live musicals, Grease Live will include a live audience, which will be incorporated into the show itself. "So, if you are in a gymnasium and there are bleachers in a gym, if you look, you will see audience members in those bleachers. It's just one of the ideas we are doing to sort of burst open the genre of a live television musical," said Platt. The production, which will use 44 cameras, has taken over two soundstages and half of the Warner Bros. backlot, where the finale's carnival scene will take place. The production is directed by Thomas Kail, who also helmed the Broadway sensation Hamilton.

To make the show more palatable for broadcast audiences and advertisers, the show has toned down some of its racier lyrics. In the song "Greased Lightnin'," the line "the chicks'll cream" has been changed to "the chicks'll scream," and "she's a real pussy wagon" is now "she's a real dream wagon." "It's going to be a very family-friendly show, but with the appropriate edge that it needs to have," said Platt.

One problematic line, however, will remain in Sunday's broadcast: "Did she put up a fight?", the lyric from "Summer Nights" that seems to allude to date rape. "We're trying to just have fun with it, as opposed to suggesting that it's something darker. Hopefully, it comes through that way," said Tveit.