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    Coca-Cola Scores with March Madness

    Coke Zero and Vitaminwater run promotions tied into the college basketball tournament.

    ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola Co. is putting two of its fast-rising brands on center stage for the next three weeks as the NCAA men’s basketball tournament continues. Coke Zero is running a "Taste the Madness" campaign, while Vitaminwater will be pushing a "Revive to Survive" theme, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

    March Madness has become a marketing powerhouse for CBS and the NCAA. The men’s basketball tournament ranks behind only the NFL playoffs and Super Bowl in TV ad spending on postseason sports, according to New York-based TNS Media Intelligence.

    Last year, Coca-Cola ranked third in ad spending during the tourney, TNS reported. General Motors Corp. and AT&T were first and second.

    For the second straight year, Coke Zero, a no-calorie beverage that has done well with males, is the lead soft-drink brand for Coca-Cola’s NCAA efforts, the report stated.

    "The audience for NCAA March Madness is right on target for Coke Zero drinkers," said Caren Pasquale Seckler, assistant vice president for Coca-Cola trademark strategy.

    Through www.tastethemadness.com, Coca-Cola is collecting vignettes of fans showing their passion for the teams. The best entries will be featured in a TV commercial during the April 6, championship game. Coca-Cola’s marketing campaign also includes product samplings across college campuses, point-of-sale materials in stores and sponsorship of the Web-based March Madness on Demand, the newspaper reported.

    Vitaminwater, part of Coca-Cola’s Glaceau division, also will be a featured brand. For the first time, vitaminwater will be on the sidelines of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. March Madness is a perfect fit for vitaminwater because it helps the company reach fans and athletes alike, said Bob Cramer, Glaceau vice president of sports marketing. Vitaminwater is billed as a drink for active lifestyles.

    The sideline deal highlights the brand’s Revive flavor, a beverage designed to aid recovery with B vitamins and potassium. Look for purple and white Vitaminwater coolers, cups and squeeze bottles along the player benches, according to the report.

    Like Coke Zero, Vitaminwater also has a broad marketing campaign including product sampling, TV commercials and a Web presence. The brand is sponsoring a MySpace bracket challenge and launched a Web site, www.revive2survive.com, which asks customers to submit videos of great basketball moments.

    In addition, Vitaminwater has created an ad featuring former Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, now at Louisville, and former Duke player Christian Laettner. The ad is a spoof of Laettner’s last-second shot to beat Kentucky in the 1992 tournament. It already is generating buzz on the Internet and will be aired during the TV broadcast.

    "We originally just filmed it as an enhancement to the online contest," Cramer said. "After we pulled it all together, we thought, ‘We really have something here.’ "

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