Watch the Spot: LeBron and Others Scream for Sprite in Latest Campaign

'For The Thirsty' Marks Fourth Tagline in Four Years

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After several years of experimenting with new campaigns, taglines and ad agencies, Sprite is looking to go back to its roots.

The billion dollar Coca-Cola brand is introducing a new campaign from agency Translation this week, which carries the tagline "For The Thirsty." The effort is a nod to "Obey Your Thirst," the long running Sprite campaign that was discontinued in 2010. Since then, the lemon-lime brand has used taglines including "The Spark" and "Uncontainable Game" from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, and most recently, "There's Nothing Soft About It" from Leo Burnett.

"We were successful [with 'Obey Your Thirst'], and we said what's next?" explained Kimberly Paige, associate VP-Sprite brands, of the brand's move away from that tagline. "In the past few years, we've had taglines that have leaned heavily into the product or leaned on the emotional side. Where we are now is the best of both worlds, [the new tagline] speaks to this duality of thirst -- the emotional thirst we know teens crave to express themselves and leave a unique mark on the world, and the physical thirst that can be satisfied with Sprite.

The spot shows basketball star Lebron James, as well as a marching band member, a biker, a mime and other characters screaming before cracking open a Sprite, while a voiceover says, "Sprite, For The Thirsty."

Bringing clarity back
"There's this notion of bringing clarity back to Sprite and the role the brand can play in consumers' lives," added Ms. Paige, a 13-year veteran of Coca-Cola who worked on the "Obey Your Thirst" campaign in a global role. About nine months ago, she was appointed to her current role working with Sprite in North America. Her arrival coincided with the brand deciding to "pause and step back" in order to focus on developing a long term platform for the brand.

"We've been trying to figure out that next sustaining platform for the brand going forward and going to various partners [to do that]," Ms. Paige said. The brand has worked with a wide range of agencies in the last eight years, including Ogilvy & Mather, CP&B, BBH, Leo Burnett, Johannes Leonardo, Translation and Turner Duckworth.

Spending on the brand has also been erratic in recent years, ranging from $7 million to $17 million in the last five years. In the first half of this year, the brand has spent $5 million on measured media, according to Kantar Media. Ms. Paige said the new campaign will signal increased investment, though she declined to specify whether the brand needs more ad spending than it's had in recent years. The ad breaking this week is just the beginning of a broader campaign that will include additional creative from agency Translation in 2014.

"This is a brand that needs to be smart about investment. … It's not necessarily about absolute figures, it's about where we connect and how we connect," Ms. Paige said. "We're looking at social and digital and what those platforms provide and extracting that. Superfans begin to advocate on behalf of the brand. There are so many brands that have done it without substantial investments in measured media."

Sprite, which controls 66% of the lemon-lime category, is the sixth-largest soft drink brand in the country, with a 5.7 share. Volume declined 1% last year, according to Beverage Digest. Volume is down 2.8% through mid-September.

"Sprite deserves more focus and resources than it's received in recent years," said John Sicher, editor and publisher at Beverage Digest. "The carbonated soft drink category is not going to grow anytime soon, but Sprite is a brand that can and should outperform the category."

Mr. Sicher said that because Sprite is clear and lightly flavored, it works well with a variety of sweeteners -- a plus in a category that is trying to both cut calories and attract consumers with natural sweeteners.

"The lemon-lime segment, in general, could be a place where we see some use of new sweeteners over the next year or two," Mr. Sicher added.

Indeed, there has been some buzz that the other major brands in the category -- Sierra Mist and 7Up -- could also be poised for additional marketing investment in the coming year. "I feel that buzz, that activity coming into the market," Ms. Paige said. "The competitive landscape is only going to be more competitive when we're all fully invested and competing."

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