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Based On A New Marketing Mandate, Coca-Cola’s Summer Olympics Campaign Is A Real Team Effort

Coke is back at the Olympics with its biggest campaign yet—a music-driven initiative that reflects the brand’s more ambitious, audience-inclusive approach to content.

The Coca-Cola Company is no stranger to the Olympics. In fact, the brand has been associated with the games for 83 years, so it is hardly a surprise to see Coca-Cola sponsoring the 2012 Summer Olympics in London with a huge campaign, which launched this week. But Coke’s "Move to the Beat"-themed global effort, created in conjunction with Mother London, does take the company into ambitious new territory in terms of sheer scale and approach to content creation and distribution. "This is Coke’s biggest ever Olympics campaign," says Jonathan Mildenhall, Vice President, Global Advertising Strategy and Content Excellence at Coca-Cola.

A telling comparison: When Mildenhall joined Coca-Cola five years ago, his first creative task was to craft marketing messages for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, and he recalls producing a campaign with less than 10 pieces of content, including two 60-second commercials. Now, Coca-Cola is in the midst of rolling out what will eventually number in the hundreds of pieces of content leading up to and running through the 2012 Summer Olympics in July. "That’s a massive, massive shift in just four years," Mildenhall says.

And it’s not just a shift in terms of the amount of work produced to promote Coca-Cola’s association with the Olympics but also in the philosophy behind content creation and distribution. To wit: The "Move to the Beat" campaign, which is aimed at the world’s youth, is made up of content that is to be largely distributed via social media by the target audience.

This tactic falls in line with Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 manifesto. Released earlier this year, the marketing mission statement announced the company’s intention to forgo a reliance on traditional advertising and to instead focus on producing content with a storytelling bent that is "liquid and linked." Liquid meaning it can flow through any medium, and linked in that it is in line with the brand’s business objectives.

"This really goes beyond the idea of an ‘advertising campaign.’ That terminology doesn’t really do it justice in terms of its ambitions," says Mother creative director/partner Stephen Butler.

Music is at the core of the "Move to the Beat" campaign, and an anthem titled "Anywhere in the World," created and performed by Grammy-winning DJ/producer Mark Ronson and Katy B. on vocals, serves as the soundtrack to all of the content.

Ronson and Katy B. can be seen performing the upbeat dance track in a two-minute commercial released on YouTube this week that also highlights five Olympic athletes. Ronson traveled the globe over the course of a year meeting with athletes, including Dayyan Jaffar, a 17-year-old archer from Singapore, and 24-year-old Kseniya Vdovina, a 400 meter sprinter from Russia, to learn about their lives and sports and find inspiration for the tune. He ultimately used the sounds of sports ranging from table tennis to gymnastics to create the rhythmic backbone of the "Anywhere in the World."

While Mildenhall raves about the song, he admits that Coca-Cola took a leap of faith in commissioning Ronson to produce an original tune. "Our biggest learning [out of this] as a company, which is really interesting, is feeling comfortable with a messy and unpredictable, non-test-sensitive creative process," Mildenhall says, noting, "You have to have a clear idea of where you want to go. But you also have to be incredibly comfortable with the random nature of creative communication."

"Anywhere in the World" will be released as a single, and Butler is hopeful that it will be a hit by the time of the Olympics. Meanwhile, a documentary based on Ronson’s travels, Coca-Cola Presents: The London Beat Documentary, has already been broadcast on British television.

In addition to the song as well as the commercial and the film chronicling the making of the tune, Mother will produce webisodes from the footage. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola’s roster of agencies has produced summer Olympics campaign elements ranging from apps to in-store communications to limited-edition packaging that will generate excitement about the Olympics among the target audience, according to Mildenhall, who says that teens will play a starring role in the campaign as it unfolds.

Case in point: Coca-Cola’s in-house marketing team recently staged a two-day audition/party in Los Angeles that found 100 teen athletes gathering to socialize and have their photos taken by famed photographer Yu Tsai for potential use in an out-of-home campaign. The participants were also interviewed by a film crew about either their personal Olympic journey, or, if they weren’t serious athletes, their passion for sports, and they were asked to talk about their relationship with Coca-Cola. The subjects with the best stories will be sent slickly produced and edited video profiles that they can then share with their friends via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.

"It’s free media for us. They’ll start to drive the conversation forward," says Mildenhall, stressing the role of the consumer in the success of the "Move to the Beat" campaign. "To be honest, the consumer voice is of greater value than the Coca-Cola voice. Our job as Coke is to inspire consumer conversations. That’s why our creative content has to be the best it’s ever been."

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2 Comments

  • Martin Ballantine

    Bloo*y awful. Sugary drink carries on its relentless pursuit of healthy athletes and children of all ages, hoping some of its over-blown schtick will eventually cause at least 1 or 2 to crack.