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Avoiding ‘visual schizophrenia’ – Coca-Cola VP of global design James Sommerville on how it created its World Cup identity

This summer’s 2014 FIFA World Cup will see the culmination of Coca-Cola’s “largest marketing programme” in its history – 175 markets across the world will adopt the drinks maker’s World’s Cup campaign which aims to create a “global feel with a local flavour”.

At the heart of the campaign sits a visual identity, created by Brazilian street artist Speto in collaboration with Leeds design studio BGO, which aims to unite the spirit of Coca-Cola being everybody’s drink, football being everybody’s game and the welcoming nature of Brazil.

Not only is the World’s Cup Coca-Cola’s largest campaign, it marks the first time that the brand has worked with just one artist as a creative partner, rather than several different agencies, as James Sommerville, VP global design at Coca-Cola explained to The Drum.

“For the first time Coca-Cola recognised the importance of being connected on a more cultural market level – in this case Brazil, it’s quite unique for Coca-Cola to approach a VIS [visual identity system] in this way and it gave it some authenticity.

“Our challenge was to take this notion of the World's Cup with people coming together in Brazil, layer over that the context of football and obviously layer over that the brand. So we had to create an idea that would embody those three pillars.”It was while Sommerville was walking through the streets in Brazil looking at the art adorning the buildings, that he realised Coca-Cola needed one strong idea to put the message across the 175 markets globally. “There was too much content, too much visual genius work down on the street and the challenge was ‘how do you land on something when there’s all this rich content you can tap into?’“The danger was, with any VIS, that it becomes visually schizophrenic – just too much going on. So we needed a single point of view to be bold and simple to stand for what the brand stands for.” Sommerville eventually came across street artist Speto, whose style he felt “very much aligned to Coca-Cola’s design principles” – bold, iconic and simple. Work on the design moved from a scribbled idea on a napkin one evening to the design which is currently being rolled out through various channels across the world. It purposefully avoids using the “clichés” of the country, instead the visual features four Brazilian street-football characters, which were initially carved out of wood and screen printed by Speto in his studio in Sao Paolo, with the colours of the Brazilian flag and the Coca-Cola logo – a combination that Sommerville hopes will help the brand stand out against the sea of sponsors and advertising. “In Brazil you’ve got Samba, the carnival, the mountains… all these things that you would as a tourist associate that country with. Although we respect those as part of their country, we wanted to steer clear of any of the immediate and obvious icons of Brazil. We wanted to create our own icons of Brazil and create these characters, so our VIS is made up of these other characters – Brazilian street players. "We believe it’s a little bit more representative of the culture rather than the icons of the country…I think we will stand out because what we’ve tried to do is carve out a story around these characters and stories and the way they play football differently”. The VIS will be adapted for each country taking part in the World Cup using colours from its flag. Sommerville said that real-time marketing would be a definite focus for the campaign and that the visual identity would be brought to life across Coca-Cola’s digital platforms using the characters in a variety of ways. The drink's brand has already rolled out a number of campaign initiatives ahead of the June tournament, including 'Moments of Happiness' where it invited consumers around the world to submit video clips to be featured in a music video for ‘The World is Ours’, the brand’s 2014 World Cup campaign anthem, and on-pack promotions. The campaign will culminate with the Happiness Flag, a 3,015 square metre flag to be rolled out on the pitch before the opening match on 12 June, and featuring a photo mosaic of 218,000 Coca-Cola fans who uploaded a selfie of themselves on the brand's website.

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