Sprite’s Ads With LeBron James Beat ‘Thirst’—and Declining Industry Trends

Few pro athletes in the modern era are as big and bold asNational Basketball Association frequent MVP LeBron James. The Hall of Famer’s career made him larger than life even before he began dropping recent hints about his ambitions beyond basketball—maybe even in national politics.

And so Sprite’s association with James since 2003, his first year in the NBA, has afforded the Coca-Cola-owned brand some great opportunities for its own boldness. Sprite has partnered with James in a variety of campaigns over the years that have managed to help keep the brand at the forefront of the cultural conversation, even as it has joined other brands battling the long-term decline of soft drinks. In multiple ways, Sprite has worked with James to thwart “Thirst”—and the dynamic duo always wins.

For example, earlier this year, James took on the guise of a baseball pitcher in a lime-green-and-yellow uniform to strike out “Thirst” with California rapper Kamaiyah as his catcher. “Sprite is always coming up with creative ways to tell their story that connect with fans, and this time that meant pulling on the stirrups and taking the mound for that big strikeout, which is something you dream about doing,” James said.

Sprite’s global marketing platform continues to be “Wanna Sprite,” which has given refreshingly authentic takes on what it means to be a Sprite fan. The brand reached the ultimate marketing stage with its first Super Bowl ad—starring James, of course—in 2017.

With successful efforts such as its relationship with James, Sprite has managed to hold its own in a struggling category. It has been among the best-performing brands in recent years of any fielded by soft-drink titans, battling with PepsiCo’s Mountain Dew as a main example of a long-standing brand that can achieve success even in a difficult environment.

Interestingly, too, Sprite has been doing so by boldly refusing to take the path of Mountain Dew, which has continued to hatch a variety of new flavors and varieties. Sprite only comes in regular Sprite and Sprite Zero flavors, with a cranberry-flavor variety available for a while.

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