Big Red Looks to Raise National Profile with Transformers Deal

Soda Brand Uses Offbeat Videos to Appeal to Millennials

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Big Red is hoping a tie-up with Transformers will convince millennials to give the fruity cream soda a taste.

The Texas-based soda company signed a movie marketing deal with Paramount Pictures that links its brand with the latest installment of the Transformers franchise, "Age of Extinction," directed by Michael Bay and due out June 27.

Big Red has $250 million in annual retail sales, according to the company, with a strong base in the South and Midwest, particularly with families, Hispanics and blue-collar consumers. But it hasn't been as popular with younger generations. And it's tough to compete with beverage giants like Coca-Cola and Pepsi, which sell billions of dollars of soda around the world. The brand is hoping the Transformers deal will give it a national profile.

"We're taking a page out of the big brand playbook," said Thomas Oh, senior VP-marketing for Big Red. "We've been trying to elevate the profile of Big Red and make it feel like a national brand. So we really amped up the partnership with Transformers."

Big Red had its first movie marketing deal last year, when it paired with 20th Century Fox's Die Hard franchise. The push helped Big Red penetrate new regions and demographics.

The deals are part of a brand refresh that began three years ago when consumers told the brand it was generic and outdated. That led to the creation of the "deliciously different" campaign. A hallmark of the effort is a series of bizarre videos, created by Austin-based comedy duo Beef and Sage, that spoof on soda experiments and feature grossly funny packaging like the backwash can and the BBQ bottle.

"At the end of the day we're sugar water. We're not curing cancer," said Mr. Oh. "We're in a fun category so we wanted to project that personality."

Mr. Oh declined to comment on the brand's marketing spend, though he said its tripled in the last three years to seven figures.

The national campaign, Big Red's largest ever, includes Transformers-themed collectible cans, online video, an online sweepstakes and extensive point-of-sale marketing. Beef and Sage worked on the video, which features a man sculpting an Autobot out of shrubs. Paramount Public Relations handled the PR push, while Big Red's creative and social media was done in-house.

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