Sonic Takes Fans To A Land Beyond 'Nothing Burger'

The last American drive-in chain wants its customers to abandon QSR monotony in favor of fun.

Created by Mother Los Angeles, a series of humorous spots drive home a new tag, “Live Free Eat Sonic,” emphasizing the fun and originality of Sonic over other boring QSRs.

In the hero :60 ad, the viewer is introduced to Sonic’s CIO (chief ingenuity officer), who screeches up to a “Nothing Burger” location in a van branded with the chain’s famous cherries.

The CIO bursts into the restaurant, encounters a hapless family inside, and announces, “Come with me if you want to live… a more delicious life!” The family proceeds to get in the van, where the CIO continues, “In this world, we don't get to control much. The past, male pattern baldness.” “Wedgies!” yells the kid in the back seat, to which the CIO replies, “I’ve got one right now.” He continues “There is one thing we do get to choose every single day: What we eat.”

The family is taken to the mythical Sonic Department of Research and Deliciousness, where the family encounters the fictitious lab “where we have everything you want, didn't know you wanted, and some things you didn't know were possible,” the CIO guy continues.  For example, gummy sharks swim in a giant blue slushy tank, ice is mined from an underground cave, and a giant hand playfully shoots tater tots into the son’s mouth.

The CIO ends, “Because we believe if you're not having fun, you're not living free. So come on, let's live a little.”  The spot finishes with a super of the new tagline, Live Free Eat Sonic.

“A lot of brands really lean into driving the food core message, which obviously works,” Sonic CMO Ryan Dickerson told QSR Insider. “We do the same thing, but it’s tougher to tell a bigger brand story when you're just focusing on an LTO or even core menu items. The Research and Deliciousment Department is a really fun way to do that. It's whimsical and it plays on a lot of the equity we have as a brand already.”

Then brand aims to leverage its main point of differentiation, as reportedly the only remaining drive-in QSR chain in the U.S.

“You're sitting at a drive-in stall, it's fun, it feels different. Everything about that experience is something that's unique to us, and we want to be able to talk about that,” added Dickerson. “Consumers have a lot of things on their minds these days, and we want to be able to be the fun part people's day. We want people to think of us in terms of their ability to kind of live free and uninhibited in those moments.”

The campaign is a multipronged effort. “We'll have everything from linear OTT Digital display, POP and new menu designs. The Live Free Eat Sonic tagline really is not just something that we're taking to consumers. We're embodying it all the way through, even on the operation side,” he said.

“It is a 360 look at everything we do from food and bev all the way down to what the crew is wearing, how we're talking about ourselves in the drive-through as well as in the drive-ins and, and what the POP looks like as well,” said Dickerson. "And so it's a full funnel effort for us. You'll continue to see us lean really heavily into it through the back half of this year and obviously into next.”

“There are moments during our day, during our week, during the month where we have the opportunity to choose fun over monotony, and that is what Sonic is all about,” Dickerson added.

The brand utilized musician and YouTuber Marc Rebillet to produce original tracks for the campaign.

The spots include a few “Easter eggs,” including a nod to the brand’s previous “Two Guys” campaign with two bobbleheads with a striking resemblance to the ‘guys’ on the van’s dashboard.

The national campaign runs on broadcast and streaming services and includes social executions on various platforms.

Two additional spots carry through the Live Free Eat Sonic theme and tag while introducing the brand’s new Groovy Fries, which is Sonic’s first major update to its fries in over 10 years.

The brand will also launch a new lifestyle brand platform later this month, which will sell Sonic branded exclusive drops of merchandise on For every item purchased, 100% of proceeds will be donated to support public education through the Sonic Foundation.

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