Sprite's New Tagline: 'There's Nothing Soft About It'

First Work From Burnett Plays Up Intensity of Beverage To Teens

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Coca-Cola's Sprite is fine-tuning its approach to targeting teens in the U.S. with a new campaign and tagline emphasizing the "intense" experience that comes with drinking the beverage.

The opening line of the launch spot is , "This is way more intense than I was expecting!" and the campaign carries the tagline, "There's nothing soft about it." It is the first work from Leo Burnett, which won the business in April.

The campaign highlights the experience of drinking a Sprite -- described as "a unique, sudden hit of intensity" -- something execs admit had been missing from previous advertising. The first ad debuts Saturday on the Olympics.

"We've never linked [the product experience] as overtly as we have now," said Kevin Keith, group director-integrated marketing content at Coca-Cola. "Most brands go to a lifestyle brand without connection to the product experience. We're trying to link to the product experience more sharply."

The brand's previous campaign, "Uncontainable Game" launched in February and is ongoing, culminating during NBA All-Star Weekend 2013 with the pitting of "Team Sudden" against "Team Intense." "Uncontainable Game" is the brand's largest global effort to date.

Sprite execs say the new campaign and tagline are meant to be broader than just basketball, allowing Sprite to hit on other teen "passion points," such as music, skateboarding and film. In the second half of the year, the brand will be promoting a contest for film students.

"We're trying to link all of these different passion points in a way that has consistency in it," said Mr. Keith. "Sprite has a very specific teen target , so we're looking for a crisp articulation."

"In the last two years, we've been fine-tuning against the same strategy," added Rafael Acevedo, Sprite brand director. "This campaign is based on the same fundamental truth we have for Sprite -- unique, intense excitement."

A Sprite billboard in Miami.
A Sprite billboard in Miami.

Sprite has also worked with Turner Duckworth on new executions of its existing design elements for an outdoor campaign. Billboards in markets like Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York feature oversized Sprite logos as the background to a guy slam-dunking and a soaring skateboarder. The logo on packaging will not change. "We wanted to push the way we look, with elements of the logo," Mr. Acevedo said.

Sprite's performance has been uneven in the U.S. in recent years. In 2010 volume was up 2%, while in 2011 volume was flat at 0.1%, according to Beverage Digest. In the first quarter of 2012, volume was down 2.1% in the U.S. According to parent company Coca-Cola, Sprite volume is up 5% globally year-to-date.

Spending on the brand has declined markedly from the mid-2000s when it laid out nearly $30 million on annual measured media, according to Ad Age 's Leading National Advertisers report. Sprite spent just $9 million on measured media in the U.S. last year. According to Kantar Media, the brand spent $2 million in the first quarter of 2012. Execs declined to comment on projected marketing outlays for 2012.

Sprite has tapped several new agencies in recent months. In addition to Leo Burnett, Johannes Leonardo was brought on to handle global duties in May. Publicis Groupe -backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty previously handled the business. BBH's Shanghai office continues to work on the brand.

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