Coming on the tails of the brand resurrecting “Obey Your Thirst,” Sprite Chill aims to be a springboard for a bigger platform as Coke ramps up flavor experimentation.

Why Sprite is heating up its lifestyle pitch with new Chill soda

Courtesy of The Coca-Cola Company

As the weather warms up, Sprite is looking to help consumers cool down with a new limited-time product that delivers a chilling sensation on top of a cherry lime flavor profile. The temperature-themed Sprite Chill launches with online video ads starring Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, a.k.a “Ice Trae,” as he interrupts fans who borrow his signature on-court shiver with help from an intellectual property lawyer and “freeze and desist” notices. 

The comedic concept, which casts Young in a self-deprecating light, was inspired by the colloquial usage of the word “cold,” referring to someone who is performing at the top of their game, according to A.P. Chaney, senior creative director for Sprite and Fanta at The Coca-Cola Company. The term is particularly popular with African-American and Hispanic-American consumers who make up key target demographics for the brand. While Sprite Chill was originally intended to be promoted with a below-the-line campaign centered on shopper marketing, the idea snowballed into something more substantial and proved a natural fit for NBA star Young, who has served as a Sprite ambassador since 2021.

Additional elements include out-of-home buys in Atlanta, Detroit, New York and Los Angeles, along with paid and owned social media. Agency Majority developed the creative with support from WPP’s bespoke Open X unit, which includes EssenceMediacom, Ogilvy New York and VML, and Momentum Worldwide.

“After we had the [cold] insight, we realized we kind of have lightning in a bottle and needed to make this bigger,” said Chaney in an interview.    

Gen Z in the crosshairs

Sprite Chill, which is available in zero- and full-sugar versions and hits shelves Monday, has distinctive packaging, with a green and frosted blue color scheme paired with cherry accents. Cracked ice visuals underscore the beverage’s tactile cooling effect, which was achieved through a new proprietary flavor technology for Sprite that is similar to one used in the confectionary and baking worlds. 

Why Sprite is heating up its lifestyle pitch with new Chill soda

Limited-edition Sprite Chill has a distinct cooling sensation and cherry lime flavor.  Permission granted by Sprite  

The chill factor is further reinforced through outdoor ads that integrate with a Sprite Chill Cam on Snapchat. The photo tool allows users to upload pictures of themselves to real-life billboards displaying a triptych with Young as cold, regular Sprite as coldest and Sprite Chill as the “coldest-est.” Sprite earlier in April hosted an event at State Farm Arena in its hometown of Atlanta that included sampling for Sprite Chill and a preview of the Young commercials. 

The formal rollout of Sprite Chill comes as parent Coca-Cola experiments more with products that try to bottle unusual sensations or cultural trends instead of conventional flavors. The core Coke brand since 2022 has run a Creations platform that has produced drinks formulated around dreams, outer space and tears of joy, just to name a few. Creations has become an important marketing tool to reach Gen Z, a group that is also in Sprite’s crosshairs amid stiffer competition.

Sprite takes a more measured approach to limited-time offerings, Chaney explained, with items like a holiday-themed Winter Spiced Cranberry in the regular rotation. It aims to turn Chill into a springboard that extends beyond one-off novelty to meet a real consumer need, according to the executive.

“Depending on performance and how it does, hopefully this becomes a sustaining platform and we can introduce more flavors and do more things and create more equity within the Chill platform,” said Chaney.

“It’s really [about] leaning into the lifestyle space and wanting to become more than just a beverage brand and also a lifestyle brand. I think Chill will help us do that,” she added.

The brand last week also resurrected “Obey Your Thirst,” a campaign and slogan that first bowed in the ‘90s, with a bigger Gen Z slant. Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards leads the latest iteration, joined by sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, the world’s fastest woman, and NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill, who appeared in the older ads. Sprite also operates a Gen Z council that informs product and marketing decisions and exists to complement more traditional testing methods and social listening.

On-court competition

Sprite has drawn on basketball as a cultural touchpoint for decades, with past campaigns featuring legends such as Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan. While the brand still works with athletes like Young and Edwards on an individual basis, Coca-Cola relinquished its sponsorship of the NBA in 2015 to chief rival PepsiCo, which recently made Starry its league flagship. 

Starry, which replaced Sierra Mist in PepsiCo’s portfolio last year, competes directly with Sprite in the lemon-lime category and markets heavily to Gen Z. Starry ran its first Super Bowl spot in February, part of a spike in marketing activity between the beverage giants that has resurrected discussions about the Cola Wars.  

“I don’t think it’s put us on the offense. But I will say we’re always looking at the market, trying to see what our competitors are doing,” said Chaney of Starry’s NBA sponsorship. “[Basketball] still stands to be a strong consumer touchpoint for us. We’ll always live within in basketball, whether Starry is doing it or not, because we have so much equity there.”

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