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Coke Plans 100 Different Commercials During Two-Week Olympics Broadcast

July 16, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ Coca-Cola Co., the single biggest sponsor on NBC’s Olympics coverage, has a plan it hopes will prevent commercial burnout.

The soft drink maker plans to run 100 different commercials _ most of them only once _ during NBC’s 17 days of coverage of the Summer Games starting Friday.

Coca-Cola’s top marketing executive, Sergio Zyman, said Monday no advertiser has ever run a larger or more diverse group of commercials on a single event. He says the approach will heighten the campaign’s impact.

Viewers might appreciate that they aren’t being asked to sit through the same commercials endlessly repeated. At the same time, the variety of ads might subtly reinforce Coke’s message that the drink has universal appeal.

The Atlanta-based soda marketer has also come up with daily themes for its advertising on each of the 17 days of the Olympics, and has picked commercials for each day that fit the night’s theme.

There will be Cool Summer Day, Getting in Shape Day, One World Day and Sounds of Refreshment Day.

The ads on Family Day include one featuring a cola-drinking father who likes classic soul music and his son who likes rap and another tracking the relationship between a brother and sister as they grow up.

On Bear Necessities Day, Coca-Cola will run four commercials featuring its animated polar bears, including one where they compete in the luge and another where they gather in the snow to watch the northern lights.

Sixty-nine ads will be run on the Olympics telecast for Coca-Cola Classic, and each will be run only one time during the games.

Most of these ads will have run previously as part of the ``Always Coca-Cola″ campaign the company launched in 1993. But a dozen commercials are new or haven’t been shown before in the United States.

Coca-Cola will run another 17 commercials once each to introduce each day’s theme. Two more ads appearing only once will mark the opening night and closing ceremonies coverage.

Another dozen commercials will pitch the company’s other drinks like Diet Coke, Sprite, Fruitopia and Powerade. Unlike the other ads, the commercials for these brands may appear more than once on the Olympic telecasts.

Stephen A. Greyser, professor of consumer marketing at the Harvard Business School, said it takes a company as big as Coca-Cola, the soft drink industry’s leader, to pull off such an approach.

He said few companies have the budgets and commercial inventory large enough to run 100 different ads.

``What they have decided to do is to create a festival of advertising to go along with the festival of the Olympics ... This is making a big company even bigger,″ he said.

But other ad watchers questioned whether average consumers will even notice how many different ads there are from Coke because most of them will share the broad ``Always Coca-Cola″ theme.

``No individual ad is going to sink in. The ``Always’ theme is the thing that will sink in,″ said Dave Vadehra, head of the commercial research firm Video Storyboard Tests Inc.

Coca-Cola reportedly spent $40 million for the rights to be the soft drink sponsor of the Olympics, and is paying another $62 million to run its ads on NBC’s telecast of the games.

It has been estimated that Coca-Cola is spending in excess of $250 million overall on Olympics-related marketing around the world.

Zyman was asked if he expected criticism about the costs of producing and running 100 different ads as opposed to using a smaller number of commercials each shown more than once on the Olympics.

The marketing executive said Coca-Cola has already reduced its ad budget by embracing the ``Always″ theme around the world and halting the company’s prior practice of creating different campaigns for individual countries.

Zyman noted the company has experienced above-average growth in sales volume in recent months, and said growth this year will also be significant.

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