Sprite shelves ‘Obey Your Thirst' after 25 years as it updates its hip-hop marketing
Sprite—which has been putting rappers in its ads since Kurtis Blow starred in the 1980s—is making the most significant change to its hip-hop marketing strategy in 25 years.
The lemon-lime soda is shelving its “Obey Your Thirst” tagline, which debuted in 1994, for “Thirst for Yours.” But the update is about more than tweaking a few copy lines. New marketing will emphasize hip-hop’s growing role in a culture that extends way beyond music to include fashion, design and more.
Hip-hop “used to be this subcategory and almost a niche. And now, it’s really a culture that impacts everything,” says Dipal Shah, director of integrated marketing content at Sprite, which is owned by Coca-Cola Co. “For us, it was really important as a brand to be respectful of that and also reflective of that.”
The campaign—created by Sprite's agency of record, Wieden & Kennedy New York—includes a TV ad featuring up-and-coming, Atlanta-based rapper Kodie Shane and an aspiring fashion designer, Seth Giscombe. The brand will give the new campaign a push at this weekend’s BET Experience event in Los Angeles, where the Viacom subsidiary hosts a range of events, from music performances to fashion shows. The TV spot will debut during Sunday’s broadcast of the BET Awards.
In the ad, Shane objects to being confined to the rapper label, preferring “generation-defining artist.” In one scene, a likeness of her appears in a fictional video game, as a signal of her wide-ranging ambitions. Giscombe, meanwhile, predicts that “I am going to be the most iconic designer of all time.”
The spot, filled with visual effects, is a far cry from Blow’s early 1980s spot, which featured a single scene in which he belts out a few simple lyrics in an ode to Sprite’s lemon-lime taste, like “without limon, it’s not happening. So sorry 7UP.”
“Obey Your Thirst” debuted a decade later with ads such as the one below, starring Grand Puba and Large Professor freestyling in a studio. The campaign came along when hip-hop was “still very much in the background. It was almost a rebellious force in music,” says Stefan Miller, Sprite’s senior brand manager.
With the new campaign, Sprite wants to play a role in identifying under-the-radar talent. A program called “Sprite Way,” which has been underway for a few months, includes a Sprite-curated Spotify playlist featuring 20 tracks from unsigned talent that came from fan recommendations submitted via social media. The program, which also includes a podcast series, will “eventually lean into other areas where the brand has a credible voice—from sports to social issues,” Richard Toranzo, who oversees social media for Sprite, stated in a recent corporate blog post.
Sprite is shifting gears as the brand posts solid sales results. Sales volume grew nearly 3 percent in the U.S. last year, according to Beverage-Digest. Asked why the brand is risking tinkering with its marketing now, Aaliyah Shafiq, group director for Sprite, says, “This is a way for us to truly accelerate that momentum. We are not content to just rest on our laurels.”