Coke, Pepsi, Virgin boost PR for summer launches

ATLANTA: PR is playing a major role in the introductions of new mid-calorie colas by Coca-Cola and Pepsi this summer.

ATLANTA: PR is playing a major role in the introductions of new mid-calorie colas by Coca-Cola and Pepsi this summer.

At the same time, Virgin Cola is using PR to re-establish itself in the US market, where it has not made much of a splash.

Coke worked with two PR firms - Rogers & Cowan and Fast Horse, a Minneapolis shop - in rolling out its new C2 earlier this summer. Pepsi has been working with Fleishman-Hillard's Chicago office to distribute samples of its new Pepsi Edge to journalists around the country.

Coke PR has been in high gear since April, when it officially confirmed its entry into the mid-calorie market. C2 has half the calories of regular Coke.

Coke unveiled C2 in LA in May and was supporting local launches around the US in June, said Mart Martin, director of Coca-Cola trademark PR for Coca-Cola North America. "It was a huge launch and effort."

Coke is positioning C2 as having genuine Coke taste. The item is aimed at those in their 20s through 40s who don't like the taste of diet soda, Martin said.

Pepsi is positioning Pepsi Edge as a product for people who alternate between regular and diet soda, said Dave DeCecco, director of PR for Pepsi North America.

Neither soda maker is directly addressing concerns about soft-drink consumption and obesity in their PR efforts.

Both launched the new offerings with PR first. Advertising has now begun for each, as well.

Pepsi PR efforts have shifted to supporting the advertising, reinforcing the ad messages that Pepsi Edge is a reward for doing simple, everyday activities.

Virgin wants to use celebrity glitz to gain market share. It has partnered with The Firm, an LA entertainment management company, to form Virgin Drinks North America and has begun distributing Virgin in 7-Eleven stores in Southern California. National distribution is planned.

The Firm, which has a similar arrangement with Pony shoes, has hired Fingerprint Communications in LA to handle PR for Virgin, said Marc Pollack, SVP of corporate communications and marketing with The Firm. The two have worked together on Pony, he said.

Virgin's PR efforts will center on having the drink seen at star-studded events, such as the recent MTV Movie Awards, said Pollack. A celebrity event is being planned next month for Miami. "It's a premium brand so we want to tie it in with celebrities," Pollack said.

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