Coke Zero Pulls a Fast One on Nascar Drivers

Latest Campaign From Crispin Set to Break During Daytona 500

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Coke Zero is out scamming people again -- this time Nascar drivers.
Nascar driver Jamie McMurray appears in one of the new spots set to break during the Fox broadcast of the Daytona 500 this Sunday.
Nascar driver Jamie McMurray appears in one of the new spots set to break during the Fox broadcast of the Daytona 500 this Sunday.

After what appeared to be a slow start, Coke Zero has racked up a substantial 1% share of the soft-drink category. Now, in an effort to reinforce the brand's key selling point -- that the diet product tastes like regular Coke -- the marketer is breaking a Nascar-themed commercial during the Fox broadcast of the Daytona 500 this Sunday. The spot, which features 12 top drivers, builds on Coke Zero's "taste infringement" series. In the first group of commercials, real lawyers were asked by phony Coke managers whether they could sue to stop Coke Zero from "stealing" taste from the flagship.

'Clever' commercial
A similar element of surprise was used in the new campaign created by Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Miami, and shot at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. In the commercials, the same phony managers from the first series of commercials take on Nascar drivers, including Jeff Burton, Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick. The managers seek to enlist the drivers in an effort to keep Coke Zero from further encroaching on Coke's turf. However, the drivers were left in the dark about the direction of the commercials, leading to a series of entertaining, unscripted exchanges.

"At first, the fake Coca-Cola brand guys came across as really serious, so we were trying to be polite and figure out what they were thinking," Mr. Stewart said in a statement. "But the more they talked, the crazier their ideas became until it got pretty unbelievable. While it was an unusual experience, Coke Zero is a fun brand and this was a clever way to shoot this commercial."

Through the racing season, 30- and 60-second spots will air on TV and in cinemas. Two additional 30-second spots that feature the drivers interacting with the phony brand managers will be posted on cokezero.com and nascar.com. Coke Zero also is the new title sponsor of a July 5 race at Daytona International Speedway. That race has been named the "Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola."

Billion-dollar brand
The new campaign comes at an opportune time for the brand, as it looks to continue building market share in 2008. Since its launch in mid-2005, Coke Zero has become the company's 12th billion-dollar brand.

"Coca-Cola Zero continued to deliver strong double-digit unit case volume growth, even after two years in the marketplace," said Muhtar Kent, president-chief operating officer, during the company's year-end conference call Feb. 13. "Our key priorities for Coca-Cola Zero are to continue to build trial, increase awareness and furthering channel penetration."

According to Beverage Digest, Coke Zero finished 2007 with a 1% share in supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores and mass merchants. By comparison, the country's 10th-best-selling brand, Diet Dr Pepper, recorded a 2% share for the year.
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