The previous global lead was Publicis Groupe -backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, which recently lost the North American piece of the business to Leo Burnett. BBH won the business three years ago following a shootout against Wieden & Kennedy; at the time Coca-Cola had just decided to reinvest in the brand, which had languished for years with little advertising.
BBH in Shanghai continues to work on Sprite and it may also handle project work for the brand.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman confirmed that it tapped Johannes Leonardo, which is backed by WPP, while BBH declined to comment.
It's possible Johannes Leonardo's first work for the brand won't debut until 2013, given that a campaign from BBH, "Uncontainable Game," isn't slated to conclude until early next year. The campaign, which highlights basketball, is running in 27 countries, making it the largest global campaign Sprite has ever executed.
As part of that campaign, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and a slate of NBA players hailing from outside the U.S. are serving as coaches of "Team Intense" and "Team Sudden." Players can submit videos of their "sudden" or "intense" moves online to be judged by a panel of experts. Ultimately, two teams of 12 amateur players each will be selected to compete in the "Uncontainable Game" over NBA All-Star weekend in 2013. In February, Sprite told Ad Age it planned to carry the program into at least 2014.
"We have seen a new trajectory for Sprite in the past couple of years," Michael Mathews, Coca-Cola's VP-noncola sparkling beverages, said at the time. "And we think we can expect more out of the brand. Our brand-health scores are up."
Las year, Sprite grew share and volume by 0.1% in the U.S., according to Beverage Digest. The brand, however, is larger in China than in the U.S. It is mainland China's No. 1 soft drink, though it ranks only sixth in the U.S. Globally, Sprite reported 4% growth in the first quarter.
Spending on the brand has declined markedly from the mid-2000s when it spent nearly $30 million on annual measured media, according to Ad Age 's Leading National Advertisers report. Sprite spent just $9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year.
Contributing: Rupal Parekh