Coca-Cola Launches DRx Collection as Licensed Apparel Boosts Brand Equity

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Coca-Cola is having trouble peddling soft drinks, but its licensed-apparel business is booming. And its new high-end “Coca-Cola by DRx” collection of vintage clothing designed by “Dr.” Darren Romanelli will add to the momentum of that aspect of the Coke brand.

Coke’s worldwide sales of licensed goods rose by 16 percent last year and is projected to grow by another 10 percent this year, a boom that began with a 56-percent hike in 2011, Kate Dwyer, Coca-Cola’s group director of worldwide licensing, told brandchannel. Apparel now represents more than half of that business compared with just 20 percent a few years ago.

“It’s huge momentum driven by the power of our brand,” Dwyer said. “It fuels new opportunities. And we’ve got the right partnerships in place to continue that growth.”[more]

Coke hopes one of them is the deal with DRx, which includes a 200-piece collection designed by him mashing up pieces such as his signature bomber and biker jackets with Coca-Cola iconography and ranging in price up to $1,650. “It’s all about taking vintage Coca-Cola clothing and reimagining it for the modern silhouette,” Dwyer explained.

The collection will be introduced first in stores such as Opening Ceremony in New York, Los Angeles and London; Fruition in Las Vegas; Unknwn in Miami, LeBron James’ store; Colette in Paris; and United Arrows in Tokyo. And the campaign will leverage social media platforms heavily.

Coca-Cola and other soft-drink brands are struggling. Coke itself is under fire over its sponsorship of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Russia, where discrimination against the LGBT community is state policy, and it just lost its top North American marketer. The brand continues to be scored for contributing to obesity, such as in a new ad campaign by Maryland-based Horizon Foundation.

In this kind of environment, Coke’s licensed businesses “really help drive brand love,” Dwyer said. “We’ve done a number of research studies where we’ve talked with teens around the world and shown them collaborations such as the one with DRx. And when asked about brand favorability, they like Coke more—typically by 40 to 50 percent more.”

“And beyond that, [licensed wares] drive purchase intent. That’s what is really compelling. Our core business is always going to beverages. Where we can do programming and products that will fuel beverage sales, that’s our ultimate goal.”

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