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PostPosted: Thu Jun 07, 2007 6:53 am 
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Reprinted courtesy of Information Week

Sprite Launches Its Own Mobile Social Network As A Marketing Tool For Teens

Posted by Stephen Wellman, Jun 6, 2007 12:28 PM

Soft drink brand Sprite announced today at the Mobile Marketing Forum 2007 conference in New York plans to launch a mobile social networking platform for the U.S. market. Looks like some marketers are putting some money where their mouth is when it comes to long-term customer engagement. Or is this just some crazy dot-com-like spending?

Sprite's new mobile offering, called the Sprite Yard, is a mobile social network that lets users chat, send messages, upload and share pics from their camera phones, and download content. The service is aimed at teens and is designed to help Sprite become more deeply connected to its younger customers. The Yard went live in China on June 1 and will launch in the United States later this month.

Unlike other mobile social networks, the point of entry for the Sprite Yard will be Sprite's single-serving bottles. Users send a short code from inside a bottle cap to a short code. The short code triggers a text message with a URL that sends the user's mobile phone browser to a sign-up page.

Users can customize their online IDs and personas, just like in desktop online social networks. The big key to the Sprite Yard is free downloadable content. Sprite bottles will also carry short codes for free downloads like ring tones, pictures, and other exclusive content, including "visitones" and "mobisodes."

Sprite representatives said that they didn't expect to generate any revenue from the Yard other than through growing sales for the sparkling beverage.

Sprite is the second-largest trademark of the Coca-Cola Co. and is the third-largest sparkling beverage brand in the world.

Will this experiment work? The Sprite Yard is an expensive proposition. Building a running a global mobile social network ain't cheap. How will Sprite know if this will work? Obviously, more downloaded content means more soda sold (or at least becomes a direct metric linking sales to an online connection). But how valuable is that? And is there anything on the Yard in terms of content or service that teens couldn't get anywhere else?

Sprite reps on hand were reluctant to put any numbers to project. "We don't typically talk numbers," said Shelley de Villiers, director of Sprite global brand management.

But without metrics, how can anyone be sure that this initiative will work? What do you think? Will the Sprite Yard pave the way for a new form of mobile marketing? Or will it flop?

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