Coke's Monster Truck Super Bowl Spot Makes Size an Issue

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Coca-Cola Co. is out to prove size does matter, using the Super Bowl kickoff to air a 60-second chest-beater of a spot for its Full Throttle energy drink that sports the innuendo-laced tagline “Let Your Man Out.”
Coca-Cola Co. wants you to 'Let Your Man Out' with Full throttle.

The spot is part of Coke’s sponsorship of ABC’s pre-game “Full Throttle Kick-Off Show,” and throughout the segment teaser ads will air for the energy drink, along with its Vault hybrid energy soda, leading up to a 60-second spot for Full Throttle that caps the pre-kick advertising pod.

Full Throttle truck
In the commercial from Mother, New York, hoards of men shed the shackles of their everyday grocery shopping, car buffing and jogging to hop into whatever vehicle is handy and draft off of the alpha-maleness of a passing Full Throttle monster truck. But Coke also takes the radical step of tweaking category leader Red Bull: The commercial shows a tractor trailer carrying a massive replica of a 16-ounce Full Throttle can charging up behind a mini truck that’s hauling a relatively puny replica of an 8-ounce Red Bull can.

The unsubtle reference is to the leader of an energy drink category quickly moving toward 16-ounce and 24-ounce cans. Speculation has swirled for months that Red Bull, which remains at 8 ounces, will be forced to super-size as rivals chip away at its market share.

Coke's macho imagery
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman acknowledged the macho imagery of the Full Throttle truck bearing down on the Red Bull truck is a way to “poke fun” at a rival brand. However, she said, because Coke is the category leader in so many segments, it is rarely in the position to use such tactics.

“Full Throttle overshadows the competitive brand because of its competitive position rather than the size of its can,” she said. “The idea of our competitor looking into their rearview mirror and seeing a full-on procession of Full Throttle was the idea.”

Red Bull still No. 1
“I laughed my head off when I saw the Full Throttle commercial,” said Thomas Grabner, CEO of Red Bull agency Kastner & Partners, Los Angeles. “How deep do you have to go to attack another brand? We smile about that. It shows me they don’t understand what an energy drink should be.” He acknowledged that rivals are gaining share, but that the entire category is growing along with Red Bull.

Red Bull wouldn’t comment on the Full Throttle ads or reports of it moving to a larger can.

Red Bull sold 2.6 billion cans worldwide in 2005, with just more than 1 billion sold in the U.S., according the marketer. “We feel our market share is really strong,” a spokeswoman said. But the drink no longer controls the lion’s share of the $3.3 billion energy market that it once enjoyed. While it’s still the individual brand leader, its share has fallen to 38.6% of the supermarket, mass and drug channels and about 40% of convenience store share, according to Beverage Digest. Meanwhile, category sales climbed 75% last year from $2 billion.

Coca-Cola in December claimed it was the No. 2 energy drink maker, having recently entered into a distribution deal with Rockstar (which includes its Von Dutch brand) in addition to launching Full Throttle and soon-to-debut Tab Energy aimed at women.

Encroaching competition
The encroaching competition isn’t lost on Hansen’s Monster brand. Monster has gained the top-selling spot in three of 30 markets tracked by A.C. Nielsen, but Red Bull remains the No. 1 national brand.

“We’re keeping our heads down, and it’s working right now,” said Mark Hall, senior VP-Hansen Natural Corp., adding that he recently hired Mendelsohn Zien, Los Angeles, to analyze the potential for more mainstream media. “At some point we figure we’re going to need more awareness.”

In the meantime, Full Throttle is trying to amp up its macho positioning, tying in with Fox Sports Net’s “Best Damn Sports Show Period” for twice-weekly segments in the Full Throttle “Initiator” room. One segment pits two football players in a cow-milking challenge, while another tests golfer John Daly’s swing accuracy.

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