Free Coke Zero for Everyone

July 7, 2008

In the 90-second clip above, Coca-Cola Racing Family drivers Jeff Burton (pictured), Jamie McMurray and Elliott Sadler promote “Taste of Victory,” a program we helped Coke develop and execute for last weekend’s inaugural Coke Zero 400 NASCAR race.

It was a truly integrated campaign, which offered to give everyone in America over the age of 13 a coupon for a free, 20-oz bottle of Coke Zero if one of 13 Coke-sponsored drivers won the July 5 race at Daytona International Speedway. That’s potentially 250 million bottles, or enough Coke Zero to power Niagara Falls for more than a full minute.

Alas, none of the Coke-sponsored drivers won, but Coke driver Kyle Petty, who was guesting in the TNT broadcast booth, offered to make good on the offer. So, it’s still free Coke Zero for everyone in America from now until July 13. Go to for instructions on how to get yours.

It was an interesting program to promote.  It’s not every day that your target audience is every person in the U.S. over the age of 13, so engaging consumers required a wide variety of tactics, including:

o        Viral video

o        Media Tours with drivers Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton and Kyle Petty

o        Press conference with driver Clint Bowyer

o        Integration into the TNT race broadcast

o        Spots and live reads on the MRN Radio race broadcast

o        Content for Daytona International Speedway’s jumbotron

o        Video message to Bluetooth-enabled cell phones

o        At-track appearances and Coke Zero sampling with drivers Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler

o        Blog relations

o        Media relations

Our NASCAR drivers were great assets to work with, but we still had to work strategically – and pretty darn hard – to get the word out.  In the end, our race was won before the green flag ever dropped, with millions of impressions to show for our efforts.  We secured excellent pickup from sports and racing blogs and Web sites (many of them embedded the video you see above), as well as print and broadcast media ranging from ESPN to the L.A. Times.

The LAT did a marketing story on the Coke Zero promotion, which was picked up by the Boston Globe and other newspapers.

An interesting point about this promotion versus others mentioned in that article: Taco Bell’s free taco giveaway during the World Series last year, and Dr. Pepper’s offer of free soda if Axl Rose releases his long-awaited “Chinese Democracy” album.  To me (and others), it looks like those two offers were designed to minimize the amount of product being given away.

The beauty of this program for Coke Zero was that it wasn’t all about the media impressions. Coca-Cola makes no bones about it: they want as many people as possible to sample the real Coke taste and zero calories of Coke Zero. When one of its drivers didn’t win the race, Coke went ahead and honored the offer anyway. In fact, they’d be thrilled if they got millions of people to try Coke Zero for the first time.

So, all these free-to-everyone offers represent a grand gesture of sorts. But I’d argue that some gestures are grander than others.