Sprite's Hip-Hop Dynasty: Honoring the Beats That Changed the World

Hip-hop has been built into Sprite messaging for decades, so it makes sense that the brand would be one of many celebrating the genre's 50th birthday this summer. There's a new "Summer of Drops" campaign, celebrating living legends like Nas and Rakim and rising stars like GloRilla and Latto. But the Coca-Cola-owned brand is also leveraging connections of authenticity. A.P. Chaney, Sprite's director of creative strategy -- who wasn't even when born when Sprite introduced a 1986 ad starring Kurtis Blow -- explains.

CPG Insider: Before discussing the campaign, describe Sprite's brand personality and why it fits with hip-hop.

A.P. Chaney: Smart and witty. We're authentic, confident and genuine. That's how we describe ourselves as a brand, and that's very hip-hop. It's always that tongue-in-cheek humor, but it's also authentic and genuine. People use rap to speak of their perspectives. They're the subject matter experts of their own lives and experience.

CPG Insider: Speaking of subject matter experts, the spot references a masterclass on hip-hop, with plenty of shots of classrooms and blackboards. What insight led you to that approach?

Chaney: I don't know if we would say Sprite is the expert on hip-hop, but we listen to our consumers who are the experts. We lean into what they're listening to and passionate about. And we follow the journey along with our consumers. It's not just music. It's fashion. Pharrell, the creative director of Louis Vuitton, just released his first collection featuring Rihanna in menswear. Hip-hop keeps going into spaces where it's never been before.

CPG Insider: A 50th birthday sounds like old age to some young people who drink lots of soda. Other than using new artists, is it hard to stay relevant?

Chaney: It's not just new artists. Teens in the '90s faced different things than Gen Z does today. So we do lots of social listening and lots of focus groups. We want to know all the challenges they face. It's very different than the "Obey your thirst" campaigns of yesteryear. But this spot, by design, used one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop. And Nas, considered one of those Mt. Rushmore-level artists, is back. He's sitting on the same stoop, spinning new bars for a new audience. Reinventing himself, but still classic.

CPG Insider: Collage Group, a market research company, ranks Sprite as one of the most popular among African American audiences. Many brands try to do that and fail. What's Sprite's secret?

Chaney: We market to all people, but our core group is this AA audience. We try to be authentic and listen to our consumers. Social listening is key for us. We say that we're not for the culture. We're not just supporting the culture. We're of the culture. We are who we are because of our consumers. We're not just tagging along. Also, Black culture is American culture. And it's pop culture. That resonates far beyond the AA audience.

CPG Insider: What are some things you get from social listening?

Chaney: Flavor ideas! We've got a limited-time offer on Sprite Lymonade Legacy, a twist on the lemon-lime soda featuring a splash of lemonade and strawberry. It grew out of conversations with people talking about how they'll go to McDonald's for Sprite and Chick-Fil-A for the lemonade and mix it together. That was a key insight. Then we started to see people say, 'I wish they'd add strawberry."

CPG Insider: How are you activating the "Summer of Drops"?

Chaney: People can scan our QR codes on bottles and cans and get exclusive merch. There's a Rakim-signed book. We're sponsoring Drake's North American tour, his first in five years. And he'll participate in our campaign. There will be chances to meet him. There are interactions with designers like Jeff Hamilton and Coco and Breezy sunglasses. And then, on Aug 11, which is hip-hop's actual birthday, there will be an ultimate prize pack.

CPG Insider: The campaign is running on all kinds of TV, digital, cinema and social. What kind of metrics will tell you it's been a success?

Chaney: From a creative perspective, we want to see how our consumers react -- what resonated and excited people. We want to know how well our LTOs are doing. And of course, we need to sell products.

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