LeBron James’ latest commercial for Sprite is as canny a bit of advertising strategy as you’ll see. Young people are as well-versed in and deeply aware of advertising campaigns that promoters often struggle with the naked reality of selling to a generation that prizes authenticity and sees a salesman coming a mile away. How do you appeal to a generation to think for themselves, but still get them to do what you want?
Sprite has been playing that game as long as anyone, and LeBron acknowledges every form of commercial trop there is, deftly distancing himself from the often-unctuous way players endorse products on TV (we’re looking at Shaq and the bewhiskered General). But from the moment you see the boom mic in the shot with LeBron, and are shown the cue cards for LeBron, it’s clear he’s breaking the fourth wall throughout the spot as he neglects to tell the consumer to “drink Sprite.”
That’s the catch and the hashtag at the end, #WannaSprite, replaces #DrinkSprite. So by deliberately not telling viewers to drink Sprite, LeBron — at least Sprite hopes — gets viewers to actually go out and procure Sprite. It’s meta marketing at its finest — like if Don Draper were born in 1988.
We got thirsty just watching this spot, and that’s despite the fact Sprite is by far the worst soft drink to consume when you’re eating spicy food. We’re a millennial, so this makes sense.