Wieden, Bartle Bogle Battle It Out for Sprite Account

Review for Marketing Duties on Coke Brand Expected to End Next Month

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Creative hotshops Wieden & Kennedy and Bartle Bogle Hegarty are facing off in a pitch for marketing duties on Coca-Cola's Sprite brand, according to executives close to the matter.

Sprite is a major brand that is long overdue for a marketing makeover.
Sprite is a major brand that is long overdue for a marketing makeover.
Independent Wieden, which is pitching out of its New York and Shanghai offices, is the agency for the flagship Coke brand, while Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle joined the roster when it was awarded creative work for Coca-Cola's Vitaminwater brand this month.

The review is expected to wrap next month, executives said.

Coca-Cola didn't respond to a request for comment on the review, while agency representatives could not be immediately reached.

Measured media spend down
Measured media spending behind Sprite dipped to $12 million in 2007 from $27 million domestically in 2006. In the first nine months of 2008, the brand spent $17 million on U.S. measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest, said Coca-Cola has been more focused on the noncarbonated category as of late. The company acquired Glaceau, producer of Vitaminwater, in 2007 and last year invested in Honest Tea.

Still, Sprite is a major brand that is long overdue for a marketing makeover. In 2003, the company signed LeBron James, then an 18-year-old basketball phenom, to a six-year contract to promote Sprite and Powerade. Coca-Cola moved Mr. James from Powerade to Vitaminwater last year.

The last big push for the lemon-lime soft drink was its 2006 "Sublymonal" campaign, aimed at teens. The creative, from MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky, included dreamlike visuals, viral ads and a product-placement deal with the ABC drama "Lost." Crispin is now agency of record for the Coke Zero brand.

The winning agency would likely help with the rollout of Sprite Green, which, according to industry executives, will need dedicated marketing support to explain the new sweetener, Truvia.
The winning agency would likely help with the rollout of Sprite Green, which, according to industry executives, will need dedicated marketing support to explain the new sweetener, Truvia.
Billion-dollar brand
Coca-Cola does not break out sales of Sprite but refers to it as a billion-dollar brand. In 2007 the brand boasted a 5.6% market share in the carbonated-soft-drink category. Diet Pepsi, by comparison, had a 6% market share. Sprite's volume has been declining as of late, however, dropping 4% in 2007 and 5% in the first nine months of 2008, according to Beverage Digest.

"Sprite is a big brand and an important brand," Mr. Sicher said. "It hasn't gotten the attention it's required over the years. But it can still be a big growth brand for Coke with the right work and attention."

The winning agency would likely be tasked to refresh the brand's image, as well as help with the rollout of Sprite Green, an extension using Coca-Cola's Truvia sweetener. That product is hitting shelves now and will need dedicated marketing support to explain the new sweetener, industry executives have said. Coca-Cola has said seeding and sampling efforts are planned for the brand, but there are no creative campaigns yet.

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