Coca-Cola’s marketing director on the future of sponsorship under its ‘one brand strategy’

As Coca-Cola kicks of its sixth year of partnership with the Rugby World Cup, GB marketing director Bobby Brittain tells Marketing Week how sponsorship will look in the company’s future under the ‘one brand strategy’ it introduced earlier this year.

The brand has launched a TV ad, OOH advertising, an on-pack rugby ball giveaway promotion and a film featuring Rugby World Cup winners Jason Robinson and Natasha Hunt in an effort to kick off its position as official soft drink, water and sport drinks supplier of the 2015 tournament.

It also hosted a Ball Exchange in London today (3 August) where rugby legends Mike Tindall, Thom Evans, Emily Scarratt and Natasha Hunt gave away hundreds of free rugby balls, encouraging consumers to swap their normal summer sports for rugby.

This is the first major sports sponsorship platform for Coca-Cola since it kicked off its “one brand strategy” in March. The initiative has seen its four product variants – Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coca-Cola Zero and Coca-Cola Life – come under the Coca-Cola master brand rather than be marketed as separate brands.

The move is part of an effort to more clearly communicate the ingredients of its variants rather than build specific brand personalities, something that has so far resulted in improved consumer understanding of each of the products, according to the brand.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Coca-Cola’s GB marketing director Bobby Brittain said that the company has deliberately chosen to “hero” Coke Zero while promoting its entire range of products.

“It’s unique in the sense that the one brand strategy frees up all of the individual variants to have their own time in the sun,” he said. “For the first time people are seeing Coke Zero as the face of Coca-Cola. This is definitely Coke Zero’s time to shine.”

Brittain said that Coke Zero has an opportunity to “grow even faster”, something the company is addressing by “doubling down on investment” and pushing the variant both in TV and communications as well as through in-store promotions.

“It’s the variant that we see as a strong part of the future of the portfolio,” he added.

Coca-Cola is focusing on the ingredients and “intrinsics” of Coke Zero as the basis for Rugby World Cup promotion rather than the brand’s personality according to Brittain.

“We will continue to espouse values as a brand and those will continue to be communicated, but more and more we’ll continue with this understanding we give consumers of what each Coke is,” he said.

“We don’t want Coke Zero to have a particular target in the same way that the ambition of the Rugby World Cup is to extend the reach and broaden the appeal,” he said.

He added that featuring male and female World Cup winners in the campaign “reinforces our commitment to expanding the reach of all our brands and taking them out of the risk of too much targeting”.

Moving forward, Brittain said that the strategy will focus on which sponsorship opportunities fit for the master Coca-Cola brand before it chooses one of its four variants to put in the foreground.

“We don’t start with individual products,” he said. “We start with the properties that are right for the Coca-Cola brand then work from there. It’s the name on the door and what’s what we’re associating with the Rugby World Cup.”

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