Can’t ‘Beat’ it: Coke utilizes creative, music-focused campaign at Games

Coca-Cola's "Beatbox" in the Olympic Park
As the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympics, Coca-Cola always sets a high bar with its Olympic marketing. But in London, it has rolled out one of the most thematically consistent and diverse campaigns it’s ever run.

It starts and ends with music.

Early Wednesday morning, a half-dozen young adults decked out in bright red shirts branded with Coca-Cola’s logo made their way toward the Olympic Park singing loudly.

“Good morning! Good morning! Welcome to the Olympic Park! Good morning, good morning, to you!”

The group was dragging props in a suitcase and entering Olympic Park for another full day of singing, dancing and performing for the crowds of 150,000 that enter the park daily. The street team — or “Beat Collective,” as Coke calls them — was one of the company’s solutions to the first problem it ran into in developing its plans for the London Games.

“When we looked at the footprint we had (for our showcase in Olympic Park), it wasn’t big enough,” said Scott McCune, Coca-Cola vice president, worldwide media, sports and entertainment marketing. “Here, because of space limits, we couldn’t bring through as many people as we liked. That led us to think differently.”

Coke's "Beat Collective" perform each day for the crowds in Olympic Park and Hyde Park.
The company decided to reach out to theater programs at universities across the U.K. and ask for applicants to join a street team that would perform at the Olympics. More than 1,000 people applied and 300 were selected. They worked with Coke to write 20 different skits that are performed every day throughout the Olympic Park and Hyde Park, one of London 2012’s live sites.

McCune said that the street teams have been a hit. Videos and photos of them are popping up on Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s difficult to quantify,” he added, “but the idea is to have consumers create content and share it with our brand.”

The street teams are only one small facet of what Coke did for this Olympics. It all began four years ago when the company’s marketing team saw the age of Olympic fans was rising. It wanted a way to use the Olympics to reach youth — its consumers of tomorrow — and it challenged its agencies to come up with an idea for that.

Coca-Cola at London 2012

The Atlanta-based company has been a continuous Olympic sponsor longer than anyone else. In London, it has as much — if not more — elements to its marketing efforts than any other worldwide Olympic partner.

Torch Relay
The company was one of three presenting sponsors of the Olympic torch relay. It had a “Beat Bus” that played loud music and proceeded the torchbearer. It also sampled Coca-Cola during the 70-day, 8,000-mile trek across the U.K.

Coca-Cola hosted a “Move the Beat” concert in Hyde Park on July 26. More than 80,000 turned out to see rapper Dizzee Rascal, Tottenham rapper Wretch 32, Katy B and Eliza Doolittle. The concert was the culmination of Coke’s torch relay.

Pin Trading
The company released 182 exclusive pins for the 2012 Games. It also set up a Coke-branded, pin-trading center near the Olympic Stadium. The center doubles as a retail outlet for Coke apparel.

Beat TV
The company is producing a TV show every day of the Games in London. The half-hour show features athlete interviews and musical appearances. It is being shown in markets worldwide.

Coca-Cola has branding at every Olympic venue concession stand. Coca-Cola red is behind every food and drink menu, and a large image of its Coca-Cola logo is there, as well.

Source: Coca-Cola
Mother, the U.K.’s largest independent advertising agency, threw out the idea of using music as a way to engage young people. London has a strong musical history with artists ranging from The Rolling Stones to Amy Winehouse getting their start there, and the agency wanted to fuse music together with sport to create a campaign.

Coke liked the idea and the company’s head of music, Joe Beliotti, called British producer Mark Ronson, who the brand had worked with before, to get his opinion. Ronson, who had worked with Winehouse and others, liked the idea and ultimately made a soundtrack using sounds he recorded from training sessions by a table tennis player, a hurdler, an archer, a sprinter and a taekwondo competitor.

The company took that music and tied it into its TV, digital and experiential campaign for the London Games. Its primary TV spot shows Ronson performing the song he made with the sounds from the sports. Online, people can watch video of Ronson recording the sounds and use the sounds to create their own “beat” or song.

The company also created Beat TV, a show that’s broadcast in partnership each night from London. It includes athlete interviews, musical guests and what’s going on around the city during the Games.

Ignition, an Atlanta-based marketing agency, brought the “Move to the Beat” concept to life on the ground in the U.K. The agency has run Coke’s Olympic torch relay program for years, but this year it created a “Beat Bus,” a giant red bus that proceeded the torch bearer, blaring music and sampling Coke.

The torch relay took 70 days and attracted crowds so large that it reached an estimated 70 percent of Britain’s 62 million people, McCune said.

In the "Beatbox," visitors can pay music by touching panels as they walk up a ramp.
In the Olympic park, Coke settled for a smaller showcase, but it was more ambitious than four years ago in Beijing. The showcase is called the “Beatbox” and it allows consumers to literally touch Ronson’s process for creating his song from sport.

Two U.K. designers, Pernilla Ohrstedt, 30, and Ahsif Khan, 31, designed a circular structure, 120 feet in diameter. Its exterior is a series of sharply angled, red and white panels that make it look like a UFO from a distance.

Pernilla Ohrstedt (left) and Ahsif Khan designed the structure.
But the panels aren’t just there for aesthetics. They’re made of a soft plastic that has sensors embedded in it. As visitors walk up a ramp that circles the exterior of the “Beatbox,” they’re prompted by staff to stop and touch the panels, which release sounds from the sports that Ronson recorded. The longer a guest touches the sensor, the longer the music plays.

Multiple sensors at the top of the ramp blend the entire track Ronson made together so that visitors can hear it in its entirety. Afterward, they can get their photo taken holding an Olympic torch with the Olympic Stadium in the background. They’re given a plastic business card that they can swipe in a series of computers to send the photo to friends or post it on Facebook.

The entire experience culminates with a walk down a dark corridor inside the “Beatbox.” Visitors are given a commemorative Coke and then watch a dance and music show put on by one of the “Beat” collectives.

Incredibly peppy and upbeat guides punctuate the tour, saying things like, “Let’s go this way, guys, and join the celebration!”

Coca-Cola expects more than 200,000 visitors to tour the showcase during the Games.

Everything about the showcase and Coke’s activation in Europe is designed to appeal to young consumers. That’s why it focused on music. That’s why it selected teens to be Olympic torchbearers. That’s why it hired two young designers to develop its showcase, and that’s why its “Beat” collectives are made up of young people.

“It’s a celebration of youth and what youth can do,” McCune said.

In the spring, McCune said that he wants the Olympics to be mentioned in the company’s year-end report as a factor in strong business results. He said last week that he’s optimistic that will be the case.

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