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From Social Media to Traditional Marketing, Coke Maintains its Fizz


Sports marketing strategies are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The days of corporations walking away satisfied after paying millions of dollars to display their logo on a team jersey are long gone.  Savvy marketers know that you to have go where the eyeballs are. Whether it be social media, digital marketing or the more traditional channels, you need to communicate and then engage with your targeted customers (fans) using the medium (language) they favor.

Two recent news releases from the carbonated drinks industry illustrate this.

USA Today last week published an article revealing how large corporations such as Coca Cola are leveraging social media during the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ‘March Madness’ annual basketball championships. Coke reserved 20% of its tournament spending for social media – a massive increase on the 2% that it gave social media marketing in 2010. When you consider the 11.7 million hours of live streaming in 2010, that is money well spent. As the article states, Coke:

“…devised a social-media gathering place dubbed the Coke Zero Social Arena, where fans can go for professional commentary and fan chatter. Coke will aggregate tweets about the game by team and try to refine social chatter in one place”.

On March 17th, The Wall Street Journal published an article revealing that Diet Coke is now the second best-selling carbonated beverage in the U.S,  behind Coca Cola, but significantly in front of arch rivals Pepsi Co Inc who are pushed down to third place.

Two reasons were offered for this result. Firstly, Coke has “ramped up its traditional TV marketing in recent years” and secondly, Pepsi’s decision to not “market its flagship cola on the Super Bowl or in other TV spots” in 2010 may have backfired. Instead of spending on the largest annual sporting event in the US, Pepsi launched its Refresh Project – a charitable program providing $20 million to “ideas that change the world”. Interestingly, in 2011, Pepsi returned to the Super Bowl promoting Pepsi Max, which competes directly with Diet Coke. Additionally, after famously missing out on sponsoring the TV show American Idol, sponsored by – you’ve  guessed it – Coke, Pepsi is fighting back. Pepsi will hand out more than $60 million to sponsor “X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s new talent show set to debut this fall on the Fox network.

You may ask what these articles have in common. For me, they illustrate the importance of having a comprehensive marketing strategy and having an in-depth understanding of your customers – and competitors.

When explaining the rationale for Coke’s social media expenditure at the NCAA, William White, group director for Coke Zero, was quoted in USA Today as saying:

“This is where our consumers are”.

When it comes to the sports industry –whether you are a sports rights holder, or a large corporation intending to spend on sports, or any other stakeholder – you have to go where the eyeballs are.

Social media is important, as we all know, and you need a strategy for it – preferably a creative one. However, traditional marketing still has an important place and ignoring it may prove to be your downfall.

Photo by D34n

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