Coke Zero Encroaching On Rival Pepsi's NFL Space With Player Endorsements

By Barry Janoff

August 27, 2012: Even as Coke Zero prepares a major campaign to support the release of the new James Bond film, Skyfall, it is moving into Pepsi-controlled NFL and other sports territories one region at a time.

Coke Zero, which recently signed former Steelers great Jerome Bettis to spearhead a push in the Pittsburgh area, has now added Brian Urlacher, all-pro linebacker for the Chicago Bears, and NHL all-star forward Brian Sharp of the Blackhawks to lead a campaign in the Windy City region.

Coke Zero said the pair would join Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who endorses sibling Powerade, "to connect the thrill of the game to the power of refreshment."

Financial terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Rival PepsiCo's Pepsi Max is the official soft drink of the NFL. It recently expanded its role via a four-year deal to become title sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show beginning with Super Bowl XLVII in February at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

Among the Skyfall tie-ins will be limited-edition Coke Zero cans featuring the likeness of Daniel Craig as James Bond and multi-media elements using actual or recreated scenes from the film. Coke Zero has product placement in Skyfall, which is scheduled to open Nov. 9.

Beginning in September, marketing will launch in Pittsburgh featuring Bettis and a campaign will break in Chicago featuring Urlacher. Sharp will make his Coke Zero debut in stores across the Chicagoland area this fall to coincide with the start of the 2012-13 NHL season.

The respective campaigns will include radio, retail and Internet, with such social media destinations as Facebook and Twitter. Promotions featuring the athletes will offer opportunities to win sports merchandise.

“Since it launched in 2005, Coke Zero has quickly become a consumer favorite and has seen consistently strong growth," Michael Dulin, vp-commercialization for Coca-Cola Refreshments, said in a statement. “Brian Urlacher and Patrick Sharp are gifted athletes whose talents and personalities resonate with Chicago sports fans on and off the field or rink. Partnering with two of the most relevant and talked about athletes in Chicago sports is a great way to help us continue the momentum for Coke Zero.”

“Joining the Coke Zero team of athletes in Chicago is a great way to connect with my fans on and off the field,” Urlacher, a seven-time Pro Bowler with the Bears, said in a statement. “Since I like drinking Coke Zero this partnership is fun for me. Coca-Cola is an amazing company, and I am very proud to be a member of the Coke family.”

According to Sharp, a member of the  2010 Stanley Cup championship Blackhawks and MVP of the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, “Coke Zero has always been more than just a brand to me – it exemplifies a frame of mind. When I hit the ice this fall, I’ll be bringing the ‘enjoy everything’ spirit to my game this season.”

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