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Banking on volume growth that will outpace the U.S. soft-drink industry, Coca-Cola Co. is investing in one new marketing program after another to show consumers and shareholders it will remain ahead of the crowd.

The cola giant tonight breaks its first national TV advertising in nearly two decades for Fresca, a 2-calorie light citrus drink Coca-Cola is using to demonstrate its agility in battling New Age beverages.

Hence, the theme of the estimated $8 million Fresca campaign from Lowe & Partners-SMS, New York: "The tasteful alternative."

Despite the inroads made in traditional carbonated soft-drink sales during the past two years by alternative beverage marketers like Snapple Beverage Corp., Coca-Cola Chief Financial Officer Jack Stahl told financial analysts last week the company expects U.S. volume growth of 5% for the first quarter of 1994, ending March 31.

All U.S. carbonated soft-drink sales grew 3.1% to $49.1 billion in 1993, according to industry newsletter Beverage Digest.

To boost U.S. volume further during the crucial summer soft-drink season and tap rival Pepsi-Cola Co.'s youth franchise, Coca-Cola is planning its most aggressive promotional effort ever, dubbed "Coca-Cola's Red Hot Summer."

Coca-Cola is teaming with promotional partners Ford Motor Co., Fox Broadcasting Co. and 150 local radio stations, which will support the $350 million sweepstakes promotion with $30 million in media advertising.

Coca-Cola projected international volume growth for the first quarter also will be about 5%. Nevertheless, Coca-Cola Exec VP-Principal Operating Officer/International John Hunter told analysts in Atlanta last week he's confident the company will reach 8% volume growth in international business by the end of this year.

The marketer's business outside the U.S. accounts for 80% of its profits, explaining Coca-Cola's ever-increasing emphasis on global marketing.

Today, Coca-Cola is also breaking a new global campaign for its Sprite lemon-lime soft drink that replaces the brand's bouncy "I like the Sprite in you" theme of recent years with a more hard-edged tagline: "Obey your thirst."

Sprite agency Lowe & Partners-SMS created six of the campaign's seven TV spots. One execution created specifically for international use is from McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

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