Cheerwine, the fizzy, wild-cherry-flavored soft drink launched nearly a century ago in North Carolina, has produced an eight-episode video series celebrating local legends.
For "The Local Legend Project," Cheerwine sent a small crew — including the series' host (and Cheerwine's first "face of the brand"), Bo Stevenson — to 26 cities in seven Southern states over the summer.
Before heading to each city, they used social media to ask fans for help in finding one-of-a-kind people and places, using the hashtag #cheerwinelocallegends.
Stevenson — who, according to Cheerwine, worked on Web series for Tom Hanks's L.A.-based production company, Playtones, before relocating to the Carolinas for a "more laid-back lifestyle" — also talked with local newspapers and TV stations to spread the word about Cheerwine’s hunt for heroes.
Among the subjects filmed: a Nashville-based artist who sculpts entirely out of crayons, a juke joint located in an Alabama ravine, and the third-generation owners of a famed BBQ restaurant.
Once the episodes were finished, Cheerwine worked with independent films distributor FilmBuff, which secured distribution on seven video-on-demand channels: iTunes, VIKI, Vimeo, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Dailymotion and Vessel.
The brand has also released a preview reel, viewable on Vimeo.
The tour and the series are part of "Local Legends, National Treasures (LLNT)," a marketing platform launched in March designed to build brand awareness as Cheerwine's distribution expands across the country.
The series and other elements build on Cheerwine's tradition of celebrating small-town heroes and championing "the little guy," and its positioning as an independent, authentic and unique "brand of the people" says SVP of marketing Tom Barbitta.
Taking the "marketing to the market" to capture inspiring "David vs. Goliath" stories enabled producing a compelling and "very Millennial-facing" series, Barbitta says. The brand intentionally used a small crew who "lived" the experiences and engaged naturally with the people filmed, and avoided having the videos look "over-produced," he tells Marketing Daily.
The approach is in part the brand's way of "leveling the playing field with the giant brands we compete against," he adds. It enabled creating compelling content that is true to Cheerwine's values, within the brand's budget, and an effective departure from the "well-worn" and "over-hyped" approaches of the soda giants, he says.
Early response to the series, launched Oct. 1, has been quite positive, according to Barbitta. If it has the viral impact that Cheerwine expects, "it could be the most efficient media investment we’ve ever made," with "extraordinary" ROI, he says. "Of course, we're watching the metrics and working with FilmBuff quite closely," he adds.
The series is being promoted on Cheerwine's Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, where Stevenson (who will continue to tour the country) will keep sharing new local hero discoveries and encouraging fans to share their nominations. Since the spring, fans have been visiting the LLNT platform's site to make their own suggestions and view and vote on others' nominations.
In addition, Cheerwine is "marrying PR and native advertising" by placing teaser videos in the context of content in Millennial-targeted sites in verticals including food, music, and nightlife, reports Barbitta.
The LLNT tour is also being supported by sampling events and local radio in key markets, as well as promotional product packaging.
The LLNT platform emerged out of a "Passion Project" ambassadors program that Cheerwine launched late last year, which generated marketing ideas from more than 1,000 creative contributors and crowdsourcing, according to the brand.