Was the Q3 report from Coca-Cola Company really all that bad?

Even with a modest uptick, global diet soda sales in the last two quarters for Coca-Cola have plummeted to a 10-year low, followed by a similar decline in sales for Coke, the company’s iconic sugar-laden brand.  Crying out for help in reversing the souring consumer tastes for its artificially sweetened sodas, Coca- Cola is betting on LeBron James and his desperate primal screams in the new campaign for Sprite titled “For the Thirsty”?  

However, our NetBase listening tracker shows Coca-Cola suffering a 30% decline in net sentiment just this past week, with significant continuing consumer pushback on spurious “aspartame safety”.  This and claims by other artificial sweeteners—coupled with the heightened health risk concerns associated with excess sugar—could prove detrimental.

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Maybe LeBron James, a popular favorite in China and his six-year $16 million international Sprite endorsement may do the trick.  If not, maybe the auspiciously timed released of a new Chinese scientific study—which claims that Sprite is the ultimate cure for hangovers—will add some fizzy to the soda brand’s fizzling sales. Regardless, it is the Chinese study getting the buzz, not the LeBron James campaign.

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In an effort to boost global sales of Sprite, Coca-Cola boldly has changed its Sprite formula for sales in the UK, where 60% of the population is overweight or obese.  And recently in France, the company replaced sugar with the “natural sweetener” Stevia.  However, each 20 oz. soda sold in the U.S. still contains 16 spoons of sugar.  

If Stevia doesn’t prove to be the silver bullet for declining sales in France, then perhaps the Chinese study will help Sprite cure that nasty gueule de bois (translation:  wooden mouth). 

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What does Coca-Cola have planned next for Sprite? Perhaps Translate, Sprite’s new agency of record, will soon be planning a ringer campaign with LeBron in China?