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Marketer: Coca-Cola Co. Agency: McCann Erickson, Shanghai, China

Coca-Cola seeks credibility with local teens through World of Warcraft, a mega-hit online game in China

[Shanghai, China] Coca-Cola has tapped into the popularity of an online game called World of Warcraft (WoW) to give its brand a more hip, trendy image among Chinese youth.

"Coca-Cola has a tradition of tapping into the heartbeat of Chinese youth through music, sports and fashion and now, with the surging popularity of the Internet, we hope to further strengthen our connection with the new generation through this passion point," said Ilan Sobel, general manager-strategic marketing and innovation, China. "China will probably be the world's biggest online-gaming market in the world by next year."

The promotion, called "iCoke World of Warcraft Shuang You Zi Ji - Storm Wind City," was developed with Blizzard Entertainment, the software division of Vivendi Universal Games that produced WoW, and an online game operator in China.

The two-month program includes advertising in above-the-line and online media, created by Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson, Shanghai, plus co-branded product packaging and 40 million prizes such as laptop computers, WoW premiums and free gaming hours.

It kicked off in mid-June with a two-day carnival in Shanghai, where 20,000 consumers were transported to WoW's medieval fantasyland, where they could move among themed zones like Darnassus, Thunderbluff and Orgimmar. The all-girl Chinese pop band S.H.E., which is sponsored by Coca-Cola, performed at the carnival and packaging on bottles will feature the band's members dressed in WoW gladiator-like outfits throughout the summer.

One of Coke's largest promotions in China to date, the WoW campaign also represents the company's first major initiative in China to support iCoke, an interactive loyalty program connecting young consumers to music and branded entertainment via the Internet and mobile phones. ICoke is billed by the company as a "digital expression" of the Coca-Cola brand. So far, it has launched only in China and Canada, but the company has indicated there are plans to roll it out in other key markets.

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