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Katie Bayne Boosts Coca-Cola Brand in Multi-Platform World

Exec will be a keynote speaker June 6 Massive: The Advertising Summit in Hollywood

It’s tough not to notice a Coca-Cola product when you’re being entertained, and that’s just the way Katie Bayne likes it.

As president of North America Brands for Coca-Cola North America, Bayne manages the company’s marketing of its various beverages through entertainment tie-ins.

Since the 1930s, that’s largely involved film promotions. “We’ve always had a relationship with Hollywood,” Bayne says, with Coke having helped hype everything from the Indiana Jones trilogy to the Batman films, Avatar and more recently parts of the Mission: Impossible and the James Bond franchises.

That doesn’t come as much of a surprise given that Coke’s products are available in 90% of the nation’s theaters.

“There’s been a strong natural connection with moviegoing. As people are watching entertainment it’s critical to experience the brand they love as well,” says Bayne, who will be a keynote speaker June 6 Massive: The Advertising Summit in Hollywood.

Rivals like Pepsi have embraced a different strategy, opting instead to promote their products at restaurants, especially fast-food chains, to boost sales. But Coke sees entertainment deals, brokered through its marketing departments, as a way to increase a brand’s “cool factor,” which translates to increased sales down the line.

In 2012, Coke’s profits rose to $10.8 billion, while PepsiCo’s declined slightly to $6.5 billion, although the beverage business represents just 37% of PepsiCo’s bottom line.

“Many things build the iconic power of our brands,” Bayne says. “To have iconic brands you must connect them to the most relevant and passionate relationships.”
Over the years, that’s expanded beyond just movies. The longstanding relationship with Fox’s American Idol has placed Coke’s large red cups in front of the competition show’s judges since 2002. Deal has since expanded to Coke helping fans produce an original song with Taio Cruz and Jason Derulo through its Perfect Harmony initiative. Derulo is also part of Coke’s summer concert series with iHeartRadio; elsewhere Sprite is paired up with digital music service Spotify.

“Music is a critical area” for Coke, says Bayne, with the brand gaining visibility in 1971 with its groundbreaking I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (in Perfect Harmony) song and Hilltop commercial. Coke also treats sports as entertainment, with the Super Bowl, and sponsorship of the American Music Awards and Essence Awards enabling Coke to reach different auds. As a longtime NCAA sponsor, Coke blended its music, sports and entertainment initiatives around the Final Four college basketball tournament to host the Coke Zero Countdown stage featuring Muse, Flo Rida and Ludacris in April.

The largest effort in the music space this year involves Taylor Swift who stars in a series of “the music that moves” Diet Coke commercials that play across many platforms and have generated more than 3.5 million views on YouTube.

“Where people are experiencing entertainment, we always seem to find a path that brings that experience alive in a different way,” Bayne says. “With the changing world, sometimes we partner with important entertainment entities and other times we create our own.”

The results of Coke’s deals are measured monthly by how people feel about Coke’s brands as part of its “brand health metrics,” with the impact traced right on through to the retail aisle.

Bayne bases her decisions on each brand’s strategy and figures out the most important connection points for consumers. Not all entertainment speaks to the audience Coke is looking to reach for each brand: Diet Coke appeals more to women; Coke Zero is meant as the low-calorie counterpart aimed at younger men; teens embrace Sprite. Coke is the four-quadrant brand.

“By having really clear strategies, when good ideas come through the door we run to them,” Bayne says. “We’ve learned to be faster and more clear in what we need.”
But like other brands, Coke is finding it harder to reach its core consumers as they become more mobile and access entertainment across a variety of devices.

Bayne tapped CAA Marketing and Ridley Scott to produce a six minute animated short starring its polar bear mascots. Kung Fu Panda helmer John Stevenson directed the film that will be broken up into shorter TV spots. “We made a piece of content about our bears that’s traveling the world and is being shown on movie, TV and digital screens,” Bayne says. Coke’s also launched “the ahh effect,” its first digital-only effort, spread across 61 websites, to speak to mobile-obsessed teens the way Coke also turns to Facebook, Twitter and MyCoke Rewards to communicate with its fans.

“You don’t have to be everywhere all the time,” Bayne says, “but you have to be good where you are in a way that works consistently with the most powerful elements of your brand.”

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