Sprite Shares “The Scenario” on MSN

MSN unveiled a Sprite-branded marketing campaign targeting teens today, showcasing the first fruits of its newly-expanded Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team.

“The Scenario,” at music.msn.com/thescenario, features Sprite’s digital spokesperson Miles Thirst, an action figure-sized character that’s been used in its TV and online campaigns for the past year. The mini-site aims to help visitors discover new music and communicate with each other while being immersed in the Sprite brand. The site follows in the footsteps of CokeMusic.com, which the company launched in 2002.

“The Web is becoming a part of people’s lives. We’re really starting to see changes in consumer behavior,” said Gayle Troberman, director of MSN’s Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team. “It’s becoming an integral part of how we live our lives.”

Troberman’s team works to create new opportunities for marketers to talk “to” people, not “at” them, but that brings responsibilities, she said.

“There’s nothing more interesting than a consumer inviting a brand into their world. As a marketer, you have to be creative about adding value, and make sure you give them something they don’t have. Once you do that, it’s magic,” she claims.

Visitors to The Scenario can view song lists of 10 popular hip-hop DJs around the country. Play lists will be frequently updated to reflect the latest music and artists. Visitors can listen to song samples, or purchase and download full versions from MSN Music. “Thirst Radio” lets users listen to new music on a Sprite-branded media player, continuing the exposure to the Sprite brand once visitors leave the mini-site. Users can also add Miles Thirst pictures, emoticons, and audio clips to their MSN Messenger conversations.

“We’re constantly trying to break molds and push the limits beyond the 30-second television spot,” said Geoff Cottrill, group director of entertainment marketing at Coca-Cola North America. By integrating the Sprite brand with music and MSN messenger, consumers will have a daily exposure to the brand, which is important for a product that they hope will be purchased every day.

“By bringing music and IM capabilities into the experience, we’re really able to integrate the brand in a day to day way,” he said.

The campaign, developed by Coke agency of record Mediavest, will be promoted across the MSN network to draw audiences to the custom site. This is the most significant online effort Coca-Cola has put forth for the Sprite brand, a move that results largely from the move of its target audience of teens online, according to Scott Witt, group director, digital, at Mediavest’s Coca-Cola City.

“This is the first year they said to us, ‘We know this is where our consumer is, so go connect with them. Not just advertise to them — connect with them,'” he said.

Mediavest won the Coca-Cola account last year, and started making plans for the nearly 20 brands in the portfolio with what Witt calls a “media-neutral” approach. The overall Sprite campaign includes online, TV, and celebrity endorsements. Though other advertising doesn’t directly point to the MSN mini-site, it embodies the same brand messages, Witt said.

The expanded role of the Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team took was announced last week at MSN’s Strategic Account Summit. The group grew out of the former Custom Solutions Team, which has worked with brand advertisers on MSN for the past three years. Past campaigns include American Express’ “In the Mix” integration with MSN Music; and Gillette’s integration with Fox Sports on MSN and MSN Video. A branded experience for Volkswagen is being developed.

“More than any time since we’ve been in the advertising business, advertisers are absolutely saying, ‘I don’t want to invest in experiences that are invasive in a way that the customer is not going to like. I want to get in front of the user, but you’re going to have to be creative about thinking of ways for what I have to say to that user to be accretive to the experience that they’re in, so the customer enjoys and finds value from what I do,'” Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told advertisers at last week’s summit.

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