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Sprite Taps Into Meme Culture With The Launch Of ‘1982 Sprite’

Sprite and WPP Open X turn popular Chinese meme into reality with the launch of limited-edition product.

A famous meme featuring Sprite as the antidote to life’s heated moments, which has been re-shared repeatedly by millions across China for the past decade, was the inspiration behind the brand’s recent limited-edition product and supporting launch campaign.

Conceptualized by Ogilvy and EssenceMediacom, as well as VMLY&R Commerce, Design Bridge and Partners, and Landor & Fitch, Sprite’s latest brand act has been welcomed as a hilarious reaction to a staple in Chinese youth culture. The 1982 Sprite product launch drove RMB 7 million in social commerce sales in a single day and the campaign has earned over 7.4 million engagements on social media.

The meme originated from a 2014 Chinese New Year TV Gala comedy sketch in which Sprite was compared to a $25,000 bottle of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild red wine as a more affordable alternative to relax in style. Quickly achieving viral status, the meme with the message “let me have an 1982 Sprite to chill out” continues to be used on social media by millions of Gen Z and Millennials in reaction to everyday heated moments.

Now, Sprite is embracing the iconic meme head-on by turning ‘1982 Sprite’ into a reality.

The brand launched the new, limited-edition product with a tongue-in-cheek campaign that riffed on the codes of fine wine culture. A livestreamed auction, offering consumers the chance to bid on the first bottles of 1982 Sprite, secured over 5 million views. As winning bids for the 1982 Sprite gift sets topped 70 times the product’s retail price, the hashtag "would you bid on a bottle of Sprite?" went viral on social media.

The following week, consumers could visit Chateau Sprite – not in a sprawling vineyard but in shopping malls and convenience stores across the country – for an immersive 1982 Sprite tasting experience.

And on July 17, World Emoji Day, Sprite distributed coupons via social media to thank consumers whose widespread meme usage inspired the product. A number of popular meme creators joined the conversation, further igniting social buzz by refreshing their 1982 Sprite stickers with the new, real product.

Following the successful launch of the brand’s first ever global platform, Heat Happens, which saw Sprite recruit more than 34 million new shoppers in 2022, the brand has continued to activate through a globally relevant, locally nuanced lens, tapping into pop-culture, passion points and topical moments, to engage a Gen Z audience with witty, light-hearted and relatable content and experiences.

“We recognise that moments of ‘heat’ can happen to all of us, but that cooler heads eventually prevail. Through our brand positioning, we’re focused on offering a simple solution – that all you need to stay cool is a Sprite. 1982 Sprite is our latest effort to establish Sprite as the most refreshing brand for Chinese youth. Born on the internet many years ago, the 1982 Sprite meme is still a popular joke used by millions of young and old consumers alike. To pay tribute to these fans, we are launching a limited time offering together with some hilariously entertaining marketing. Indeed, 1982 Sprite is no longer a joke. Or is it?” - Ibrahim Khan, Senior Marketing Director, Sparkling Flavors, The Coca-Cola Company.

Wei Fei, Group Executive Creative Director, Ogilvy Shanghai and Creative Lead, WPP Open X Greater China, commented: “The beauty of “Heat Happens. Stay Cool” is its ability to tap things that genuinely engage our target audience, whether by reacting to trends in real-time or by joining in on an established pop culture phenomenon. We are incredibly proud of the 1982 Sprite campaign which breaks new ground at the intersection of creativity and culture.”

Meha Verghese, General Manager, EssenceMediacom China and Sparkling Flavors Category Lead, WPP Open X Greater China, added “We are delighted to partner with the Sprite team to turn a gusty vision into reality. 1982 Sprite demonstrates our approach of listening closely to the consumer landscape to uncover ‘heat’ insights and turn them into cool, creative activations across the marketing mix. We executed this innovative end-to-end experience with seamless integration across creative, media, social, PR, data, technology, and commerce, and we are thrilled by consumers’ reaction.”

1982 Sprite campaign results to date:

  • Over 100 articles of earned media coverage driving 80 million earned impressions.

  • 7.4 million total social engagement

  • 5.1 million views and 100,000+ bids during auction livestream

  • No. 1 beverage store on Douyin (Tiktok) Commerce

With a unique flavour, closely based on the brand’s irresistible lemon-lime taste, Sprite 1982 continues to be available across Greater China for a limited time only, via all major e-commerce platforms, supermarkets and convenience stores.