At One Stadium, Rookie Zevia Pushes Pepsi From Starting Lineup

It’s fun to watch the marketing underdog in action.

Starting this season, the Oakland Athletics will sell the first-ever naturally sweetened, zero calorie soda in Major League Baseball.  That’s because California-based Zevia Zero Calorie Soda is now the team’s official soda sponsor.

Photo: Zevia.

Photo: Zevia.

It’s quite the accomplishment for underdog Zevia, which produced $60 million in 2013 sales.  Pepsi held the soda sponsorship in previous years, and will still be available at the stadium, though.

The Zero Calorie Soda of the Oakland Athletics partnership includes:

  • Selling four Zevia soda flavors at concessions in branded coolers;
  • Fan sampling;
  • In-game advertising and promotions;
  • Title sponsorship of Breast Cancer Awareness Day;
  • 2014 special events availability.
Photo: Zevia.

Photo: Zevia.

The As and Zevia are working from the same marketing playbook.  It’s a marriage of like-minded business players:

“From their success during the 1970s and 80s to the era of ‘Moneyball,’ the A’s have always been an inventive franchise that succeeds using a different path than their competitors – this is every bit the Zevia story, as we’ve built the leading zero calorie, naturally sweetened soda brand.”  (Zevia CEO Paddy Spence.  Source:  Oakland Athletics statement.)

“The A’s have always been open to a new way of doing things and we are thrilled that Zevia has come on board as a business partner.” (A’s President Mike Crowley.  Source:  Oakland Athletics statement.)

Note the important words:  “different path” and “open to new ways of doing things.”  These marketing themes are critical for both newcomers and established leaders.

Zevia started in 2007 (CEO Spence bought the company in 2010), and recently reformulated its sweetener system (stevia and monk fruit) to improve the taste profile.  That’s another important theme:  continuous improvement and adaptation.

CEO Spence is confident.  Here’s what he wrote last year in a Harvard Business Review blog post:  “We believe that an authentic brand offering a compelling new solution can compete, and win, against category leaders.”

A quick note on sponsorship marketing.  As I’ve previously written, you need to start with the right business and marketing strategy, which is a prerequisite for making a correct platform selection.  Beyond the sponsorship cost itself, resources must also be allocated to activation.  Do all this correctly and your odds at strong engagement go way up.

Zevia evidently believes that its baseball investment fits its strategy and brand marketing plans.  And the A’s must have considered it a fit with their overall interests as well.

Finally, I have to give a plug to the Zevia social media team.  When I read about the A’s sponsorship with Zevia, I thought it was a cool marketing example and tweeted it out.  Here’s their personal response, with probably a bit of their brand personality coming through:

It will be interesting to see how Zevia sells at the ballpark this season, and how the company leverages the sponsorship.  Time will tell if this sports marketing game plan can really open the brand-expansion doors.

Headline

Score one for the underdog marketer.  Beverage brand Zevia is now The Zero Calorie Soda of the Oakland Athletics, snaring the kind of sponsorship rights that typically go to icons such as Coke, Pepsi and Gatorade.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who drives success in B2B/B2C organizations.

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