Sprite Hits Refresh

Sprite’s jingle-driven tagline from the ’80s was, “I like the Sprite in you.” Now, for its first campaign in four years, the Coca-Cola brand is looking to inspire the spark in you.

An explosive 30-second commercial broke this month, showing hip-hop artist Drake struggling in the recording studio with his hit song, “Forever.”

“I’m just not feeling it,” he says, as he takes a break and downs a Sprite. The spot then takes a dramatic visual turn, with the rapper literally breaking apart as the soda flows through his body. The camera sweeps in, giving viewers a tour inside an animatronic model of the artist, with the drink flooding the music equipment within him and erupting out through his heart, which is an audio speaker. At the end, he becomes one again and returns to the microphone, ready to deliver. The tagline: “Sprite. The spark.”

It’s all about “Sprite giving you this sudden burst of fresh thinking,” says Jonathan Mildenhall, vp of global advertising strategy and creative excellence at Coca-Cola.

The campaign is the first effort from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which won the business early last year after a shoot-out with Wieden + Kennedy. Created for markets in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia, the campaign includes TV, online, out-of-home and mobile. Eight executions of different lengths have been produced for specific markets from four TV spots. Later ads feature Chinese singer Jay Chou and video director Rik Cordero. They will appear in executions breaking in the coming weeks.

Although it began with a TV commercial, the global campaign is centered on a digital push launching March 1 that allows consumers to produce their own mixes of music and, beginning in April, create animated films at Sprite.com.

“It needed to be an idea that could live anywhere, at anytime, in anyway,” says Kevin Roddy, CCO at BBH, which collaborated with AKQA to produce the interactive music and film mixer. And, he says, they needed to demonstrate “what the brand was about and allow you to experience the brand.”

The theme is entertainment based but born out of a strategic brief from the Coca-Cola marketing team focusing on product attributes, like the lemon and lime flavors and the energy lift from the sugar and carbonation, says Mildenhall.

Roddy adds that the idea for the “spark” line came from the product label, which shows a spark-like graphic image behind the word Sprite.

In pitching Roddy on the winning spot idea (one of some 100 scripts considered), the agency team — including creative directors Amee Shah and Matt Ian, art director Erik Holmdahl and copywriter Beth Ryan — showed him a piece of artwork featuring a Volkswagen Beetle deconstructed with its pieces floating around it. To execute the idea, they turned to director Benjamin Steiger Levine of aWhitelabelproduct, who had done a music video for rapper Socalled that used similar animatronics and in-camera effects.

“The Spark” is the first global campaign of this scale for Sprite and is planned for distribution in nine countries across four continents. The effort, in conjunction with live events like the Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown and a spoken-word competition, hopes Mildenhall, will help the brand regain the traction it has lost in recent years.

“Five years ago, Sprite was an authentic part of American urban culture. We were the brand of choice,” he says. When the brand changed its North American creative strategy a few years go, he explains, “we started to become less relevant to urban youth.”

The brand’s previous campaign, “Sublymonal” from Crispin Porter + Bogusky, featured the tagline “Obey,” a truncated version of the “Obey your thirst” line introduced in the mid-’90s, and used quick cuts of ironic subliminal messages that could be found when played back in slow motion.

“We found that the target found it difficult to decode,” Mildenhall says. “This idea of fresh creative thinking … resonated with our target strategically, but the cherry and the icing on the cake is Drake, that track and that story.”