SBJ/February 11-17, 2013/Marketing and Sponsorship

Mello Yello hopes NHRA will jumpstart beverage sales

When NHRA fans pop into a store to grab a soda this summer, they will see a familiar logo inside the stores’ refrigerators.

Mello Yello bottles nationwide will feature the NHRA logo and offer an $8 ticket discount to fans. The program is the most expansive national promotion Coca-Cola has run against the NHRA since the company first became a title sponsor of the NHRA in 2001. It’s the most high-profile aspect of a multifaceted marketing campaign that includes TV spots, radio commercials and on-site activation that is designed to promote the first year that Mello Yello replaces Full Throttle as title sponsor of the drag racing series.

“The creative is so great,” said Sharon Byers, Coca-Cola’s senior vice president, sports and entertainment marketing partnerships. “Retailers love it. The NHRA loves it. It’s going to be that whole 360 [marketing campaign that] you see the Coca-Cola marketing machine do all the time.”

Coca-Cola last year signed an extension with the NHRA that runs through 2018. Under the agreement, the company opted to rebrand the organization’s top series as the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. It was known as the Powerade series (2001-08) and the Full Throttle series (2009-12) after that.

The company hopes that aligning Mello Yello with the NHRA helps the drink chip away at Mountain Dew’s lead in the citrus soda category. Mountain Dew and Diet Mountain Dew have an 84 share of the citrus segment in the soft drink category, according to Beverage Digest. Mello Yello’s share of the market is just 4 percent, according to Beverage Digest.

Byers said that making Mello Yello the title sponsor of the NHRA is already paying dividends. The company’s internal research showed an uptick in Mello Yello sales after it announced the sponsorship last fall, and Byers credited the deal with helping Mello Yello get distribution at Dollar General and Circle K.

“We need to sell into our retailers and get additional availability,” Byers said. “From a Mello Yello perspective, it will certainly help us with volume and profit.”

Mello Yello will begin distributing 16-ounce, NHRA-branded cans at retail outlets in May. Those cans, which will be available through August, will offer buyers an $8 discount on NHRA tickets. The brand also plans to feature the NHRA logo on 20-ounce cans and bottles of Mello Yello and Mello Yello Zero. It will complement those bottles with point-of-sale materials at stores in regions where the NHRA is popular. In addition to the retail promotion, Mello Yello will have a major activation at the NHRA’s 24 races this year.

Everything Mello Yello does around the NHRA will emphasize a new tag line developed specifically for the series called “Go on Yello.” The tag line, which is a play on the drag racing lights that flash before drivers explode off the starting line, was developed by NHRA drivers.
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