Coke Zero’s ‘Drinkable Advertising’ Push Looks to Get Millennials Sampling

ESPN College GameDay shows off Shazam integration

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Coke Zero usually likes to promote how it tastes, but the brand's newest round of multichannel marketing aimed at millennials is largely focused on how the drink sounds.

In a continuation of a campaign marketed to those who have never tried the zero-calorie drink, Coke Zero has launched a new spot in partnership with ESPN College GameDay and Shazam. In the ad, created with Ogilvy & Mather, the GameDay cast walks viewers through how to use music-identification service Shazam to receive a free Coke Zero at 7-Eleven, Domino's, QuikTrip and Speedway.

According to Coca-Cola, 85 percent of millennials have not tried Coke Zero, but nearly 50 percent of those who try it go on to become monthly drinkers. So, the "drinkable" marketing campaign is aimed at getting consumers to sample the product.

This is the third year Coke Zero has partnered with College GameDay. Earlier this year, Coke Zero launched a new campaign aimed at winning over consumers who hadn't yet tried the soft drink. The "You Don't Know Zero 'Til You've Tried It" campaign integrates multiple broadcast spots, traditional media, digital retail and social media engagement.

Drinkable jerseys and virtual sip-offs

Some students will be selected to try a "drinkable jersey," featuring their home team's colors and a logo that syncs with the Shazam app for a free 20-ounce bottle.

"College football is an amazingly powerful passion point for many of our target consumers," said Racquel Mason, vp for the Coca-Cola and Coke Zero brands. "So I would assume that partnering with GameDay in such an innovative way will not only garner the trials but will also help us to establish a very positive brand payment—that it's not only just a delicious brand but also a very cool and modern brand that meets consumers where they are."

To foster even more competition, there will be a "sip-off" in which fans from opposing teams can try and drink a virtual Coke Zero before the other using a microphone on their smartphone that becomes a straw (of sorts) with more of the Coke Zero on the screen disappearing with each "sip."

Fans on each week's GameDay campus might recognize a number of in-person extensions of the campaign, such as Section Zero and Coke Zero's 23,000-pound, 26-by-36-foot drinkable billboard.

Broadcast is no longer enough

The most effective cross-channel ideas allow people to spend time experiencing a brand, said Ogilvy & Mather New York President Adam Tucker. He said creating "engagement through fame" is 12 times more effective in driving market share over standard rational or emotional campaigns.

Tucker said Ogilvy has created campaigns for clients that are between two to three times more effective when the idea is anchored in a brand experience delivered in a surround way.

"With the proliferation of choices and messages, where consumers sleep-shop though the store, you can only hand out so many product samples to drive trial," he said.

"An idea working across experiential, digital, social, PR and broadcast channels creates an intimate 'trial' experience at mass scale," he said. "We can no longer rely on broadcast to change perceptions—we need to use multichannel efforts to change behavior."

@martyswant Marty Swant is a former technology staff writer for Adweek.