Coca-Cola Is the Real Winner Of American Idol

Kelly Clarkson may have done well indeed out of American Idol, but perhaps the biggest winner from Fox’s smash TV show is Coca-Cola.


American Idol turned out to be one of the few properties that can match Coca-Cola’s universal appeal and fits in line with Coke’s target demographic reach – from kids through 35-year-olds to 64-and-aboves.


Initially Coke’s first series rights in 2002 segmented into four main silos:


TV Ad Space: Coke was flexible and timely with its TV work. The brand reacted to the ‘great live TV moments’ with things like “personalised good luck” spots for the finalists airing moments before the announcement of the winner. And within 24 hours, they turned out a congratulatory ad for the winners that ran the following day. Coke also used the show to promote the roll out of Vanilla Coke and launch new Coca-Cola Classic ads.


Corporate Coke Red: Coke-related items swamped the set: from the Red Room (playing on the green room waiting area idea) which featured Coke pictures on the wall and was part of the show, to on set Coke coolers and Coke-branded internet kiosks and pinball machines. Coke’s signature ribbon swooped along the back of the onstage red couch.


Judge Drinks: Coca-Cola cups were displayed prominent on the judges’ table (too prominently for some markets), while Coke drinks were typically in the background during interviews.


Radio Airtime: Coke launched a ticket giveaway and Red Room access competition on national radio via Clear Channel-owned stations. Coke also used the red couch for VIP seating at other summer concerts.


There was further integration with sponsorship of the post-show 28-date concert tour.


The show was so successful that Coke even added an internal employee element to the deal. An American Idol viewing area was set up in its Atlanta headquarters for employees to watch and the brand even produced velcro-backed dolls of the contestants to rip off a giant board as contestants were ejected from the show.


And all this for a bargain price too. The soft drinks giant got in on the ground with a product placement-led sponsorship deal at less than $10m. That’s a bargain considering the first series final racked up an impressive 23m viewers. Of course, the show has spun out with subsequent smash hit series, hit records, sell out tours and CDs. All of which are platforms for the sponsors as well as the singers.


“The sponsorship was “the deal of the decade,” says media consultant Jack Myers. “And not just because economically it made good sense. It was a good value and over-delivered on its promise, but it’s also an association with a show that’s transformed itself into an icon.”




Coke seemed present from start to finish and thus benefited from excellent awareness and recall statistics. The objective was to ensure that the brand’s role was in the show was fun and natural. To a European audience the brand’s role might have seemed ‘over the top’, but in the US research suggests that it was just right.


Interestingly, and agonisingly for them, it is reported that Pepsi passed on the deal.









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