SHANGHAI (AdAgeChina.com) -- Coca-Cola Co.'s latest beverage concoction in China taps into the combined popularity of green tea, a beverage with a long history in that market, and Sprite, the mainland's No. 1 soft drink.
Called Spritea, the tea-flavored carbonated beverage is part of a marketing push to revitalize the Sprite brand. It is currently only sold in mainland China, but "there is certainly interest in Spritea outside China. In many Asian markets both Sprite and green tea are very popular beverages," said Coke's Hong Kong-based spokesman Kenth Kaerhoeg.
Sprite is the leading carbonated soft drink brand in volume share in China -- even bigger than the company's flagship Coke brand -- and China is now Sprite's largest market. Sprite has racked up seven consecutive years of double-digit growth in China, including 18% in 2009.
Past ads were based on a "Freedom from thirst" campaign platform, with executions showing consumers jumping into pools of water.
"While this may have helped build the business," said Adrey Low, head of account management at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Shanghai, "it didn't really help build the brand. Research shows that there was very little brand love and consumers found the brand to be dull and uninteresting."
BBH pitched for the Sprite creative business in China in late 2008, and won the account in March 2009. A year later, this is the first major work for the Sprite brand from BBH.
Jay Chou gives 4-D performance at Spritea launch
With the launch of Spritea and a new campaign slogan, "Spark Fresh Thinking," Coca-Cola wants to "enhance the momentum of Sprite" among younger consumers in China and "further drive up brand love," said Andres Kiger, the U.S. beverage giant's senior marketing director, Greater China, based in Shanghai.
The beverage debuted in Shanghai on March 25, with an event featuring Sprite spokesperson Jay Chou, a popular Taiwanese musician, singer, and actor. Mr. Chou carried out an Avatar-like 4-D performance on screen and on stage, transporting fans into an inspiration-filled wonderland.
Mr. Chou also stars in a new Chinese spot for the Sprite brand, set in a film studio, where a stumped Mr. Chou is trying to write a movie script. Drinking Sprite inspires him with whimsical images like a wooden ship and a panda bear flying through the air.
"We wanted to stay true to the product experience, a sudden hit of refreshment. We had a lot of interesting playback from consumers who talked about how drinking Sprite helps clear their heads," Ms. Low said.
"That was a piece of interesting insight we leveraged on, this sudden refreshment that Sprite provides does not need to just be at the physical level, it could ladder up to something bigger and more mental," she said.
Coca-Cola has created two more versions of the Sprite ad for India and the U.S. The marketing campaign also includes online activation, outdoor and in-store advertising and sampling.
"We will introduce experiential Spritea sampling stations across China and will provide 15 million free drinks to domestic consumers, the largest new product sampling ever in Coca-Cola China system," Mr. Kiger said.
Coca-Cola is also supporting the Sprite with music-themed marketing that will break in China in June. Sprite has a long association with music in China through marketing and events like the annual Sprite Music Chart Final Award Presentation.
Spritea was created at an innovation center in China
Coke developed the concept behind Spritea more than a year ago, according to Ella Liu, Coke's Shanghai-based Sprite brand director, Greater China. The drink is the first carbonated beverage created by the Coca-Cola Global Innovation and Technology Center, which opened in Shanghai in March 2009.
Spritea could breathe new life into China's beverage market, which remains far less competitive than other North Asian markets, particularly Japan. Ready-to-drink tea consumption in China has increased over 30% annually in recent years, and in general, tea and carbonated beverages make up over 20% of the Chinese beverage market.
According to Kantar Worldpanel, which measures consumer purchasing and usage insights, ready-to-drink tea outperformed most beverage categories last year.
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