At the beginning of 2018, something strange happened in the soda aisle. The Diet Coke cans all had a growth spurt. Their stripes turned different colors and they declared themselves flavored, with everything from "Feisty Cherry" to "Twisted Mango." With this new branding and flavors, it must be time for a marketing campaign to sell the public on these latest additions to the Coke family. What better time than the Super Bowl? These Diet Coke Super Bowl commercials mark the first time since 1997 that the brand has run a spot during the big game. (There are usually Coca-Cola commercials during the Super Bowl, but they are for the original, classic version.) So who is shilling for the new (Diet) Coke?
Most millennials don't remember the fiasco that was "New Coke," which occurred back in the mid-1980s. At the time, Coca-Cola did something not far off from what Diet Coke is doing today, including changing the cans, the logo, and the formula fans loved. It is considered a cautionary tale in the marketing world about messing with the flagship of a brand. (New Coke is also why it's branded "Coca-Cola Classic" on the cans, by the way, if you ever wondered about that.)
But Diet Coke isn't the flagship. It's simply one of many spin-offs, including Coke Zero, Coke Life, and all those bizarre twists on Coke products that one can get out of a "Coke Freestyle" fountain at Five Guys.
With many of its competitors looking trendy in the aisle with the longer, skinnier can, this is also Coke's opportunity to see if rebranding to the popularly-sized vessel works. (It didn't work for "Skinny Pepsi," which tried it in 2011.)
Who will be joining Diet Coke on its branding spree? The official YouTube channel released all five spots this week ahead of the big game, and heading up the group is none other than Community's Gillian Jacobs.
Jacobs gets to show off the original flavor. But she's not the only one helping the brand along. Each flavor has its own spokesperson, with renown ginger Daniel Stewart repping — what else — Ginger Lime.
The Wrong Girl's Hayley Magnus gets Zesty Blood Orange.
Comedian Ryan Goldsher does Twisted Mango.
And finally, Deadpool's Karan Soni gets Feisty Cherry.
All the spots were directed by Paul Feig, known for his comedy work in the female Ghostbusters reboot as well as the instant classic Bridesmaids.
As noted above, this is the first time in 21 years that Diet Coke has returned to the Super Bowl commercial slot. Rafael Acevedo, Coca-Cola North America’s group director for Diet Coke, said the following in a statement to AdWeek.
We wanted to present a fresh approach to Diet Coke advertising, while still bringing our loyal current fans along on the journey. Diet Coke has always been a brand that stands for confidence, but how we’re saying it is totally new. Now, it’s about having the confidence to do what you want to do and drink what you want to drink. Because you can.
According to AdWeek, there is a sixth spot that goes with this set, which will air only during the Super Bowl. Who will be touting the Diet Coke can in that sixth commercial? Fans will have to keep their eyes peeled during those all-important early commercial breaks to see if they can catch it.
The Super Bowl airs at 6:15 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, on NBC. The commercials will start airing before that, but the highest profile ones will probably not come until after the national anthem is sung.