Why Mello Yello Is Dressing Its Normally Bright Cans in Camouflage

Citrus Soda Rolls Out Camo Cans in New Hunting/Outdoors Marketing Play

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Mello Yello is trading in its bright yellow look for camouflage as the brand goes on the hunt for more sales.

The camo packaging design will appear on most cans and bottles sold in stores through the end of the year as part of a new partnership with hunting and outdoors brand Realtree. The campaign, themed "This is My World," will also include out-of-home ads featuring David Blanton, host of the Outdoor Channel's "Realtree Outdoors" TV show, radio and point-of-sale promotions. The packaging and broader effort will run from August through December.

The goal is to build Mello Yello's blue-collar credentials as parent Coca Cola Co. continues to pay a little more attention to a brand that was all but forgotten just a few years ago. Mello Yello was relaunched nationally in 2010. A couple years later, it took over as sponsor of the National Hot Rod Association, or NHRA.

"Our fans are passionate people, from their loyalty to the smooth citrus taste of Mello Yello and 300 mph of drag racing to the gritty adventures of the outdoors," Bobby Oliver, Coke's director for sparkling citrus brands, said in a statement.

Georgia-based Realtree camouflage patterns are licensed to more than 1,500 manufacturers for use in more than 10,000 products, according to the company. The brand will get significant exposure in the Mello Yello campagin with its trademark included on cans and in ads. One ad shows a Realtree-outfitted fisherman wrestling in an 8-pound bass.

Mello Yello is looking to reel in more sales in a citrus soda segment that has long been dominated by PepsiCo's Mtn Dew, which has successfully courted millennials by tying itself to extreme sports like skateboarding.

The Dew franchise grew volume by 1% last year and now controls 84.9% of the citrus segment, according to Beverage Digest. (Citrus does not include lemon-lime brands like Sprite.) But Mello Yello had a good 2014, growing volume by 8%, putting it at a 4.8% share. Sun Drop, by Dr Pepper Snapple Group, controls 2.4% share. Just a couple years ago, Mello Yello trailed Sun Drop.

"Mello Yello is a good small brand, but competing against Mtn Dew is not for the faint of heart." said John Sicher, editor and publisher of Beverage Digest. Indeed, PepsiCo spent more than $76 million on measured media on Dew last year, while Coke spent just $1.19 million on Mello Yello, according to Kantar Media.

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