For the Cricket World Cup 1996, Pepsi was not the official sponsor of the tournament, Coke was but Pepsi had a whole kitty of best players from the sub continent and abroad. The ad campaign of “Nothing Official About it rocked the country and knocked the wind from Coke’s Lungs. Possibly from this time onwards Coke also realized the value of celebrities in India and henceforth went ahead with that strategy.
Another consequence of this campaign was that from the next Cricket World Cup, advertisers began signing exclusive contracts which stipulated that competitors can’t have players who are in the tournament acting in their ads. And sadly for Coke, it was Pepsi which was “official” this time.
In 1998, the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai took the country by storm. Pepsi then took out another ace from its sleeve. This time SRK, Rani and Kajol starred in the ad. Also starring was the future star Shahid Kapoor who was noticed by the industry. The punchline this time was “Yeh Dil Maange More” which was an iconic line and struck a chord amongst the people.
The Coke people responded to this ad in a different and unique way. They actually spoofed the ad, the product used being Sprite, again to hilarious effect.
Pepsi responded with a spoof on it’s on its own, starring Azhar and Jadeja hitting on the Coke line of “Eat Cricket, Sleep Cricket, Drink Only Coca Cola” with the punch line of “More More Cricket, More More Pepsi”. Coke again hit back, this time with Thumbs Up ad. They portrayed the cricketers as monkeys and ended the ad with “Don’t be a bunder (monkey!!) Taste The Thunder!!” Things turned ugly with Pepsi going to court and finally ended with Coke withdrawing the ad.
The year 2000 heralded the rise of a new superstar, Hrithik Roshan. Both Coke and Pepsi rushed to sign him, but Coke won (possibly due to the fact that they promised that all the ads starring the superstar would be directed by his father). The first ads starring Hrithik Roshan were launched in Diwali Season. Pepsi hit back this time with a SRK ad which also had a Hrithik look alike. This ad was directed by Prahlaad Kakkar and was in a bad taste. Rumors ran about SRK’s insecurity and rest but the episode really was a footnote in the epic battle.
Around this time Coke’s market share surpassed Pepsi for the first time since Coke’s launch in 1994 (Trivia: Coke was first re-launched in India in Agra) and suddenly Coke was defending and Pepsi attacking the market share.
Now the wars shifted from cola to clear lime segment. Coke realizing that in India Thumbs Up was a valuable brand and it could not use it for opponent bashing. This time it was between Sprite and Pepsi’s Mountain Dew.
Pepsi had launched Dew with “Do the Dew” tagline emphasizing on Adventure sports. Sprite killed the ad with “Do The Do” ad which was funny and memorable.
The Cola Wars are here to stay. Its been just 10 odd years in India for them to start. In the USA they are on since a 100 years. The battle actually throws up some amazing ads and lets hope they continue.
Yeh Dil Maange More!!!