China has an estimated 40 million gamers, mostly teens and young adults, in Coke’s target market, and “will probably be the world’s biggest online gaming market in the world by next year. This is an exploding passion point,” said Ilan Sobel, Coca-Cola’s Shanghai-based general manager, strategic marketing and innovation for China.
”Coke is essentially in the entertainment business, our brand is about bringing a little happiness into the lives of our customers. With the surging popularity of the Internet, we hope to further strengthen our connection with the new generation through this passion point and to continue to galvanize our relationship with teens.”
The two-month promotion includes above-the-line and Internet advertising, created by McCann Erickson, Shanghai, plus co-branded product packaging and 40 million prizes such as laptop computers, WoW premiums and free gaming hours. The U.S. beverage giant also decorated 10,000 cyber cafes around China with elaborate WoW and Coke branding, driving up Coke sales in the cafes by up to 30%, according to Mr. Sobel.
The summer program kicked off in mid-June with a two-day carnival at the Shanghai International Expo Centre, developed with Blizzard Entertainment, the software division of Vivendi Universal Games that produced WoW, and The9, an online game operator in China.
Twenty thousand consumers were transported to WoW’s medieval fantasy land, “Yao Shuang You Zi Ji - Storm Wind City,” where they could move among themed zones like Darnassus, Thunderbluff and Orgimmar. S.H.E., now sponsored by Coca-Cola, performed at the carnival and packaging on PET bottles will feature the band’s members dressed in WoW gladiator-like outfits throughout the summer.
The band members also star as themselves alongside three Chinese male celebrities, Will Pan, Shawn Yue and Liu Xiang, in five spots airing through the summer that seem more like a reality series than TV campaign.
One of Coke’s largest promotions in China to date, the WoW campaign also represents the company’s first major initiative there to support iCoke, an interactive loyalty program connecting young consumers to music and branded entertainment via the Internet and mobile phones.
Although the company plans to roll it out in other markets, so far it has only debuted in Canada and in China, which has seen “a dramatic transformation from watching TV to surfing on the Internet,” said Lee Winfield, Coke’s Hong Kong-based Public Affairs & Communications Director, Asia.
China is home to more than 100 million Web surfers, nearly 40 million of whom have access to broadband. Among 15-24 -year-olds in 30 cities, Coke estimates that TV viewing has dropped to only 3 hours per week, while Internet usage has grown to 7.5 hours per week.
“Moving forward, we have therefore taken a strategic decision to include the Internet as an integral and permanent part of our marketing and advertising campaigns in China,” said Ms. Winfield.
The Chinese iCoke site (www.icoke.cn) includes longer versions of the TV campaign, including footage about the production and “blooper” shots, celebrity commentaries and an auction for wardrobes and props. The first ten weeks the site was active, it drew 15 million page views.