Soft drink giants go hard on advertising

While cruising in the car one beautiful day in Phoenix, I noticed a billboard that The Coca-Cola Company had paid to put up somewhere on Indian School rd. The advertisement portrayed LeBron James in all his glory approaching the rim for a slam dunk from the lower right corner of the enormous rectangle. The Sprite brand was clearly located on the left. It just so happened to be that I was parched at the time yet was not inclined to obey my thirst, with Sprite at least anyway. Sprite happens to be my favorite soda but I was turned off by the appeal that the company was making.

(LeBron signs deal with Sprite)

Now let it be clear, my goal is not to endorse the product or disapprove of the product, but analyze the advertising strategy and start a discussion on how this celebrity endorsement affects consumer attitude.


In an emotional appeal, a young fan of this great athlete may recognize that Sprite and King James are in such good public standing with one another. This consumer just may happen to be a middle school boy whose favorite hobby is watching basketball, and who happens to be 35 pounds overweight. He may decide to be just like his idol and buy a Sprite at the next gas station, or maybe subconsciously later in the week, or maybe even at every sporting event he attends for the rest of the year. Logically speaking, it would not be healthy for LeBron James to drink Sprite at basketball games when he is sweating profusely and looking to re-hydrate his body. James’ nutritionist is probably also paid a gigantic salary and would probably not be too happy if he decided to. While analyzing the emotional and logical appeals to this advertisement it seems as though a consumer who purchased the product after viewing the ad is being deceived into the bandwagon concept of “everyone is drinking it, even your favorite athlete, so you should too”.


This advertising tactic is so ancient that it grew a beard back in the 90s. With millions of dollars at the disposal of these corporations, they decide to spend it in a traditional sense rather than implement a creative new way to reach out to their publics. With Americans being notoriously unhealthy, this choice of athlete endorsement is hardly a display of corporate social responsibility.

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5 Responses to Soft drink giants go hard on advertising

  1. cwilusz says:

    I really do not see any problem with endorsements such as this one. Advertising companies love ad’s like this because they generate sales. Plus, LeBron probably got a ton of money to pose for these ad’s. I mean sure I guess drinking soda does not support the lifestyle of an athlete but that is not the purpose here. The purpose here is to use an idol like LeBron to help drive up product sales, which in this case I think would work because it got you to notice?

  2. kmcnally says:

    I as well don’t see a problem with advertisements like these. I think that people that are interested in the person that is in the advertisement drinking the product, are more likely to drink it. Rather than it being some random person that they have zero connection to. I think that it is smart to do this because it can really drive up sales. If i were to see a singer, or an athlete that i admire i would drink the product they are advertising, rather than a random. And plus, like cwilusz said, if the ad gets you to notice it, then its working right?

  3. tburns says:

    I do not think there is anything wrong with having a celebrity endorse a product. However, I do think that there needs to be some sort of relevance of the celebrity/athlete to the product or to the audience.

    These days, social networks are rapidly expanding and proving that people rely more heavily on peer evaluations rather than from a celebrity or professional reviewer. Surveys and polls have also proved that the public’s source of opinion is not the same as it once was. Therefore, if a company is going to spend millions of dollars to have a celebrity sign a contract, I think it would be a smart idea to make sure the celebrity representing the product is either an expert on it or someone whose opinion would mean something.

    Or, if through campaign research it was discovered that the target audience trusted the opinion of a specific famous person and that person could in fact have an impact on that audience’s opinions or purchasing habits, then it is appropriate to have that person endorse the product.

    If not, do not waste the time or money. (Not to mention, with so many companies struggling to stay as competitive as they once were these days, it is not a financially smart move to spend this much money on an advertising tactic if it is not going to make a huge impact.)

  4. srugeris says:

    Thank you for your posts Cwiluz and Kmcnally. However, I never said it wasn’t effective. In fact, I mentioned that this type of advertisement does generate consumer interest and build a product association powerful enough to affect our subconscious. When I mentioned this celebrity endorsement is so old it is growing a beard I was making reference on the many decades that corporations have effectively utilized this particular avenue of advertising for returns amounting in billions of dollars worth of sales.

    The point of this blog post was the ethical point of view that the corporation that provided this advertisement is manipulating the para-social relationship a person may have with a celebrity. For example, the overweight kid who keeps buying the sprite throughout the week. Remember the “Got Milk” advertisements? At least that was celebrity endorsed campaign that was ethical because according to The Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, 75% of Americans do not meet the current calcium recommendations.

    At the end of the blog post I mentioned corporate social responsibility. Coca-Cola has campaign called Live Positively which I believe started in Canada. Through this plan they encourage the community to get involved in many different ways. One example would be the Sprite Step Off Service Challenge in which The Coca-Cola Company is donating 1.5 million dollars to encourage college dance programs. My point is, as a consumer I want to see the multibillion dollar corporations that I support give back to the community and although they do, the communication of this often goes unnoticed.

    It would be easy to creatively implement these factors into an advertisement that would help build public trust. Many people are too busy to really take the time to gather information on what philanthropies the corporation they fund help support. The billboard should not only draw attention to a product, but inform me as a consumer. If they used LeBron James to draw my attention but also told me that every time I bought a Sprite, a few pennies were donated to a college program, I would be a more satisfied stakeholder.

  5. tmoore says:

    I completely understand how one might find this advertisement ironic; However, I think that it is mostly only recognized by PR practioners such as people like us studying journalism and mass communication. Some people might correlate that sprite and sports are not an ideal combination for rehydration, but most people also may just simply correlate Sprite with LeBron James and find it an appealing advertisement. I think that a more logical approach to the advertisement would have been to show James drinking the product rather than playing basketball in order to better connect the two prominent icons without contradicting the goal of the campaign.

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