Dive Brief:
Coca-Cola is working with League of Legends developer Riot Games to promote a new soft drink targeted at the gaming community, per details shared with Marketing Dive. Called Coke Ultimate Zero Sugar, the limited-edition beverage is meant to be flavored like experience points, or “+XP,” that can be used to progress in the game. A global campaign that depicts a hero figure teleporting around worlds inspired by popular genres in the medium 

Ultimate Zero Sugar packaging

comes with QR codes that open the Coca-Cola Creations Hub for digital experiences, which has added an Instagram filter that lets visitors view themselves as League of Legends emotes. An element of tech-enabled personalization could further appeal to gamers that value a sense of 
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 Coke is continuing to build on a Creations platform launched last year that focuses on experimental flavors tailored to different enthusiast groups. This is the first time the soft drink giant has directly collaborated with a gaming company on a flavor, though it is not clear from the announcement what  Teaming again with Riot Games could help Coke read as more authentic with gamers, an audience that is notoriously averse to traditional advertising but increasingly valuable to brands, with a substantial portion in the Gen Z age range. The soft drink giant 2022 signed a multi-year agreement as a founding partner of Wild Rift Esports, the first mobile esports program from Riot Games.

Beyond the experience points theme,

Coke Ultimate Zero Sugar carries perks for League of Legends diehards and newbies alike. Players can participate in three in-game missions that unlock limited-edition Ultimate emotes as rewards, with the first mission going live today (June 7). Future missions will be activated in order as they’re completed, while the custom emotes will be available starting July 18. At the same time, Coke is introducing an Ultimate Emote Generator to its Creations Hub that lets fans dabble with a new League of Legends Instagram filter and generate awareness on social media. Visitors to the site can also pre-order an Ultimate Zero Sugar-branded mini-fridge made by Cooluli. Packaging and promotional materials for Coke Ultimate Zero Sugar are co-branded, with the League of Legends title displayed prominently and reinforced through a bold black-and-gold color scheme. The regular Creations logo is paired with an Ultimate crest that carries a blue glow inspired by Hextech, a magical technology from League of Legends. Coke’s usual Spencerian Font script has also taken inspiration from the game’s glowing Nexus Crystals. The crystals serve as the basis for real-world activations running in Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Mexico City. Coke Ultimate Zero Sugar is available in the U.S., Canada, China, South Korea, Latin America,  and Africa, with a full-sugar version coming to the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. A campaign to build awareness is running across social channels, speaking to Coke’s growing digital focus. The hero ad opens with a character being beamed into a rain-drenched cyberpunk city laden with buzzing neon signage, including a prominent Coca-Cola logo. The ad then shifts to a first-person perspective common in video games as the hero explores an outdoor market and eventually acquires a crystal that transports them to far-flung worlds. Coke plans to let consumers step into the world of the campaign through another experience coming to the Creations Hub. People can upload a selfie and see it transposed onto an Ultimate character, a tactic that leans into the deep fakes trend. Creations products frequently come labeled with QR codes that access cutting-edge digital experiences, like augmented reality-powered music performances. 

The latest Coke campaign.

was developed with WPP’s Open X/Ogilvy, a bespoke unit within the ad-holding group, and creative agency Virtue. SixTwentySix served as the production shop, with the commercial helmed by directors Miles Cable and AJ Favicchio. For people, Havas and EssenceMediacom also contributed. Coke has made a growing number of overtures to gamers, who have shown a preference for energy drinks and offerings like rival PepsiCo’s Mtn Dew. A pixel-flavored Creations beverage from last spring called Zero Sugar Byte was complemented by a custom island in Fortnite. Other campaigns have not gone over so well. A 2021 ad that was part of Coke’s then-new “Real Magic” global brand platform was criticized by some gamers as being tone-deaf and out-of-step with their interests. On a call discussing first-quarter results, CEO James Quincey noted that Coke has become “much more digital over the last three years,” which has helped boost appeal with Gen Z. The company’s organic revenue was up 12% year-over-year in the opening leg of 2023, a bump that came despite ongoing inflationary challenges.