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Volume 20 No. 42
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Sprite sees NBA partnership as a slam dunk

Sprite is one of the NBA’s long-standing sponsors, so it should come as no surprise that as the NBA has evolved globally, so too has the Coke-owned brand.

The evolution of the deal between Sprite and the NBA, a partnership that began in 1986, is proof positive that familiarity breeds success. Through the NBA’s international reach, Sprite has increased its business by using the league’s global appeal to activate all over the world.

One recent successful activation was Sprite’s “Uncontainable Game” promotion, which offered fans from around

Sprite enhanced its sponsorship of the NBA’s annual slam dunk competition by adding amateur contests.
Photo by: NBAE / Getty Images
the globe the chance to play on teams coached by the Miami Heat’s LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant during last season’s All-Star Weekend. Players had the opportunity to either upload their best moves online at or display their moves at local tournaments and events in various countries. The 18-month-long activation served as an effective way for Sprite to reach NBA fans worldwide.

“It was an amazing opportunity to leverage the strength of the NBA,” said Bob Cramer, vice president of sports and entertainment marketing and partnerships for Coca-Cola.

While the “Uncontainable Game” promotion was the latest between Sprite and the NBA, the Sprite-sponsored slam-dunk contest during All-Star Weekend has proved effective throughout the history of the partnership.

“We have seen an ideal alignment with our business,” said Emilio Collins, senior vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA. “We are both very global organizations, both engaged in youth and multicultural audiences. That is a sweet spot for us.”

The Sprite Slam Dunk is one of the glamour events of All-Star Weekend, and Sprite and the NBA’s activation around the event has continued to evolve. What was simply a title sponsorship of the dunk contest now includes more fan participation from around the world. Add-on activation efforts range from fan text voting, added in 2008, to amateur dunk contests with the winners competing in front of celebrity judges.

“Sprite went from the early stages of the relationship, where they were trying to build that brand, to where it became a billion-dollar brand,” said Mark Tatum, executive vice president of global marketing partnerships for the NBA. “The platform evolved from brand building to now where consumers have a hand in deciding various elements of the contest itself through digital and social media.”

The company’s goal was to embed fans into the Sprite brand through the text voting and amateur slam-dunk contest.
“The heartbeat of what we love about the NBA is its self-expression,” said Sharon Byers, senior vice president of sports and entertainment marketing partnerships for Coca-Cola North America. “Our focus has been to increase the consumer engagement. It has been a great evolution. The ‘Uncontainable Game’ was the first-ever global game platform we have ever done.”

Sprite also is increasingly using the NBA’s digital assets to amplify not only its league sponsorship but also its 14 team deals as it works on this year’s activation plans.

“We are still in discussions as to what it looks like,” Collins said. “You will see global engagement and more digital components and a little different identity. We want to make sure we are understanding their objectives.”