Coke Zero Sugar feels the pressure of March Madness - Brand Innovators

Coke Zero Sugar feels the pressure of March Madness

  • Coke Zero Sugar continues its “Best Coke Ever?” push with a new March Madness campaign featuring former collegiate stars Jay Williams (formerly of Duke) and Allya Boston (South Carolina), in a new ad that will air throughout the NCAA college tournament. 
  • The spot, which first aired during the North Carolina at Duke game on March 9, takes a fan-centric approach, depicting on of the tensest moments in a college basketball game, stepping up to the free-throw line. In the spot, time slows down as fans cheer and jeer as the player prepares to take the shot. 
  • In addition to the spot, Coke Zero Sugar will have activations throughout the entire tournament including watch parties on campuses of its partner schools and at regional tournament sites. The brand will also have a significant onsite presence in both Final Four host cities (Phoenix (Men’s) and Cleveland (Women’s) where Williams and Boston will make appearances. 

Last year’s campaign for the Coke Zero Sugar brand featured basketball icons Magic Johnson and Tamika Catchings, along with comedians Travis Bennet and Dave “Lil Dicky” Burd,” vying to take a taste of Coke Zero Sugar, as the “Best Coke Ever?” platform was brand new. The debate may not be settled, but this year’s campaign is decidedly more fan-focused. 

“It demonstrates the madness of fandom and its ability to impact critical moments, such as the often critical free throws,” said Charece Williams Gee, vice president, North American sports, entertainment and influencer marketing and Partnerships at The Coca-Cola Company. “Fans have been pouring their heart and soul into their favorite teams for years. The rituals, the chants, the fits, are all a part of the culture of the game, and we wanted to ensure the fans were seen and celebrated because ‘fan work is thirsty work.”

The spot depicts players lining up at the free-throw line and cutting to fans alternately cheering to make the shot and jeering to miss it. Imagery includes fans putting hexes on the player, bands playing loudly from the stands, and even an inflatable wind puppet. As the players take their shot, a fan takes a swig of a Coke Zero Sugar and the crowd erupts.

“Featured throughout the ad are several of Coke Zero Sugar’s NCAA partner schools competing in both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments along with former collegiate basketball players, Jay Williams and Aliyah Boston,” Anne Carelli, director of creative strategy, Coca-Cola Trademark North America. “We wanted to show that even legends in the sport – and those still at the top of the game – are first and foremost fans of their alma maters. They’re cheering alongside the rest of us and staying uplifted and refreshed with ice-cold Coke Zero Sugar!”

The spot will run throughout the Men’s and Women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. As mentioned the brand will have a significant presence at tournament venues and partner schools throughout the tourney, with activations including photo booths, sampling, and an AI-powered interactive area where fans can create an animated video. In addition, Coke Studio will be the presenting sponsor of the March Madness Music Fest on Saturday, April 6, at the Men’s tournament and will be capping off a four-week-long workforce readiness program with Boys and Girls Clubs of America in Cleveland during the Women’s championship game.