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Coca-cola co. decided to look at the 1996 Summer Olympics through the eyes of the individual fan to differentiate its sponsorship from the event's dense marketing clutter.

The centerpiece of its fan-targeted effort was the Coca-Cola Olympic Torch Relay, for which Coke paid an estimated $20 million to be title sponsor of the lighted torch's three-month journey across America.

Creating a mobile marketing extravaganza, Coke took the torch through small towns and major cities. Thousands gathered outside their homes and offices to see the parade surrounding the torch, carried for short distances by a succession of local citizens, celebrities and international visitors.

The effort was deemed a major success for its creative approach to bringing Coke directly to consumers' doors.

Coke furnished "more than 35 million Americans with their only first-hand Olympic experience . . . We brought the Olympic experience to the fans, recognizing their critical and inherent role in the Olympic movement," says Chuck Fruit, Coca-Cola Co.'s VP-director, strategic media and presence marketing, who oversaw the massive effort.

Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., created Coke's Olympics advertising themed: "For the fans"; the relay itself was handled by McCann's New York-based Momentum IMC event marketing unit.

In Atlanta, another event designed around fans was created: Coca-Cola City, a 12-acre park, opened May 23 offering entertainment and Olympics activities such as virtual reality races, plus shopping, food and Coke. Attendance exceeded expectations of 850,000 visitors, and Reebok International and McDonald's Corp. served as co-sponsors.

The result: Coca-Cola's volume increased 11% through July 14, according to PaineWebber, and millions of fans-even those without tickets to the Atlanta games-experienced the Olympics through Coke's marketing efforts.

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