Why Sprite brought back ‘Obey Your Thirst’ to reach Gen Z

Why Sprite brought back ‘Obey Your Thirst’ to reach Gen Z

Sprite today (April 18) revived its iconic "Obey Your Thirst" tagline with a campaign that pays homage to the original 1994 effort that established the brand's ethos. The Coca-Cola brand's latest campaign enlists NBA player Anthony Edwards and sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson — the brand's first woman athlete partner — and spans TV spots, packaging, sports partnerships and a digital experience.

In the lead spot, Minnesota Timberwolves star Edwards is seen drinking Sprite and making a dunk. When an onlooker — shocked at Edwards' beverage choice — sips Sprite and tries to make the same dunk, he clangs it into the rim and falls dramatically to the court.

“You want to hoop like Anthony Edwards? Practice. You want a refreshing drink? Obey your thirst,” NBA Hall of Famer Grant Hill says in voiceover. 

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The new spot directly references the original 1994 campaign, which starred Hill in the same role as Edwards. Three decades on, calling back to the first "Obey Your Thirst" spot — part of a platform that was supplanted by the "Thirst for Yours" campaign in 2019 — is the latest step in Sprite's "journey" to reach a new generation of young consumers, according to Brian Rogers, senior director of brand marketing for Sprite.

“Strategically, the audience that we have been after since 1994 has been experiencing more and more pressures,” the executive said. “You think about the youth of today, and the amount of pressure that they're under — cultural pressure, pressure to be like everyone else — we felt like 'Obey Your Thirst' and what it means was right for this moment for that consumer.”

The campaign comes as Sprite looks to maintain its position in a crowded soft drink market, which has seen increased marketing activity from PepsiCo’s lemon-lime Starry beverage and better-for-you entrants like Olipop. Starry, which replaced Sierra Mist in the PepsiCo lineup last year, has made a significant ad push, including a Super Bowl commercial this year, around both hip-hop and basketball — two areas that have historically been central to Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" marketing.

“There will always be competitors to enter this space,” Rogers said of the market. “I think we have a long heritage of speaking to this specific audience with what it means to be Sprite. ‘Obey your Thirst' means a lot of things to millennials, and we have an opportunity to reintroduce it to a new generation of Sprite drinkers.”

Along with the Edwards spot, the campaign includes a forthcoming spot starring world’s-fastest-woman Richardson, a presenting sponsorship for the Timberwolves’ first two playoff rounds and limited-edition packaging that includes a QR code-powered digital experience, "Obey Days," that rounds out the multichannel effort. 

“'Obey Days’ is all about encouraging consumers to ‘Obey Your Thirst,’” Rogers explained. “So if you scan the QR code, you get the opportunity to register and every Thursday you'll be able to log in and see the message from A.E. or from someone associated with Sprite about how to … be yourself, be authentic in your life in every way.”