Mr. James began backing Sprite in 2003, the same year he entered
the NBA. The 13-year-relationship is a rarity in an age when
celebrities frequently switch allegiances. "There is belief in our
relationship," said Bobby Oliver, director for Sprite and citrus
brands at Coca-Cola North America. "He is very comfortable with us
and what our brand stands for and how we go to market and we are
very comfortable with him."
"From the beginning, this partnership with Sprite has always
focused on being authentic. And I like that we got to have a little
fun with that in these spots," Mr James said in a statement.
Sprite representatives declined to disclose budget figures for
the campaign. Ms. Henry said it is "probably the biggest campaign
we've had in awhile." Two separate 30-second spots will begin
running on TV on Monday. Ads will start running in primetime on
major networks later this month, marking the first time Sprite has
aired ads in primetime on major networks since late 2015. Mr. James
was scheduled to tweet a 60-second version of the ad (above) today
to his more than 33 million followers.
The ads feature a cameo by hip-hop artist Lil Yachty, who
performs a parody of his song "Minnesota." The "cold like
Minnesota" line is replaced with "cold like Sprite soda."
The campaign comes as Sprite continues to buck declining soda
trends. Sprite sales across all varieties are up 1.5% in volume and
roughly 1% in dollars year-to-date, according to Beverage-Digest.
"The most important thing Coke did for Sprite was refuse to let it
grow up," said Beverage-Digest Editor Duane Stanford. "The brand
has used music and sports to reach multicultural millennials who
otherwise may have dismissed Sprite as their grandfather's
PepsiCo has tried to gain new ground on Sprite with its recent
rebranding of Sierra Mist as "Mist Twst," which is aimed at putting
more emphasis on taste. Ads for the new version have been running
since late winter. Spots plug "real juice" and encourage viewers to
"Insist on the Twist."
Mist Twst sales are down roughly 18% in dollars and volume
year-to-date, including the previous version (Sierra Mist), Mist
Twst, diet and regular, according to Beverage-Digest. That is only
a slight improvement from the 19% decline Sierra Mist was
experiencing last fall, Mr. Stanford stated in an email. But sales
of more profitable single serve packs are up 10% year-to-date, he
said. "Challenging Sprite isn't easy, but PepsiCo doesn't
necessarily have to win the war. Single-serve growth is profitable
growth," he said.