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Tv commercials for Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite preach that image means nothing. But Chris Lowe, VP-director of strategic marketing, knows that isn't totally true.

Two years ago, he helped give the brand its anti-image image, which made Sprite America's fastest-growing soft drink in 1995.

"In 1994, we basically repositioned the brand as more of an attitudinal product, focusing on the cool attitude of Sprite," says Mr. Lowe, 43. "Prior to that, it had been positioned as a lemon-lime beverage to compete with 7UP. This turned it into a mainstream beverage."

Like most marketing success stories, Sprite-the nation's No.*7 soft drink with a 4.9% share last year-started its surge with focus group research.

"We listened real carefully to where consumers were attitudinally," Mr. Lowe recalls. "Empowerment was critical."

That insight led to Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" campaign, created by Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York. Ads, some featuring basketball star Grant Hill (see below), spoof traditional endorsement advertising by showing that regular people who drink Sprite do not turn into NBA superstars.

"The brand has gone from a change-of-pace brand to a mainstream, highly consumed product," Mr. Lowe says.

Which just goes to show, if you can get enough regular people to drink Sprite, you can become a marketing superstar.

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