Golfer Jordan Spieth shows off his lighter side – and impressive trick-shot skills – in his first Coca-Cola ad debuting during his U.S. Open title defense.
In the 60-second spot, the 22-year-old champion is waiting inside his production trailer to shoot a commercial during a rain delay when he reaches into a cooler for a Coke, leaving behind a divot in the crushed ice that resembles a golf hole. The indented image sparks an idea; a shoeless Spieth quickly grabs a club and gets creative – chipping shots off the walls and into everything from a bell-shaped Coca-Cola glass, to the pit of an avocado, to an open toilet. Missy Elliott’s “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, fittingly, soundtracks the spot.
Making the Most of a Mulligan
Coca-Cola and Wieden+Kennedy Portland had to come up with a few tricks of their own to pull off the shoot at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas near Spieth’s hometown of Dallas. In fact, W+K had planned to film an entirely different commercial featuring Spieth and a friend playing golf on a hot summer day... but Mother Nature had other plans.
“We were scouting locations and doing pre-production in Dallas when the forecast took a turn for the worst and we realized we were in a flood zone,” said Sarah Traverso, group director of multimedia production and agency operations for Coca-Cola North America. “The sun was essentially the third character in our story, so we knew we couldn’t pull it off.”
Spieth’s jam-packed calendar left only one open date until October: Friday, April 29. Postponing until the fall would have meant missing the rest of the season’s major tournaments, the Ryder Cup and the Rio Olympic Games. Coke had no choice but to take a chance.
In the days leading up to the rescheduled shoot, severe weather threatened once again. “All signs were pointing to it not working out,” Traverso said.
But on the evening of April 27 – roughly 36 hours before the shoot – Traverso called W+K Executive Creative Director Hal Curtis and challenged him to “embrace the rain” and quickly develop a plan B in case of a washout.
Curtis, who has produced several Coca-Cola campaigns over the last decade, worked on a 1999 Nike ad featuring Tiger Woods juggling a golf ball with a pitching wedge for 28 seconds, then striking it perfectly out of mid-air down the fairway. The unscripted spot, which was captured during a break while shooting another Nike commercial, got him thinking.
“I batted around a few ideas on the phone with my partner back in Portland and got a rough script down on paper late that night,” Curtis said.
An initial idea of Spieth hitting trick shots under a covered clubhouse atrium morphed into a similar concept inside a production trailer. Coke and Spieth green-lit the new script around noon the next day.
“We trust Hal implicitly and had faith in his team’s ability to create something special,” said Ivan Pollard, senior VP of strategic marketing for Coca-Cola North America.
The crew flew to Dallas that night. “And, of course, the weather was perfect when we landed… not a cloud in the sky,” Traverso said with a laugh. “So heading into Friday morning, we weren’t sure which spot we’d be shooting.”
They woke up to foggy, overcast skies and a strong chance of storms. “We knew we couldn’t make it look sunny, so we decided to go with Hal’s alternate idea,” Traverso said.
With only a four-hour window on set, there was little margin for error. Spieth, a consummate competitor, was up for the challenge.
“He got really into it and was a great sport,” Traverso said. “He invented trick shots on the spot and became hell-bent on making every one... and he did.”
Spieth had the idea to shoot the pool-stick shot. “As we were shooting, I thought to myself, ‘I bet he’s done stuff like this his whole life',"
In fact, everyone on set chipped in with suggestions. “It was an incredibly collaborative process, which made it really fun,” Curtis said. “And we needed everyone to contribute because things were moving so quickly. We came to the set with a few ideas, but a lot of what you see was trial and error. We went in the trailer and looked around for anything that could function as a golf hole.”
Ironically, the rain held off until just after the shooting wrapped.
“After all that, not one drop,” Traverso said. “We ended up bringing in rain towers, so every shot you see looks like it’s pouring. And we added lightning in post-production.”
Pollard, who said Spieth’s character and effervescent approach to life make him a great fit for the Coca-Cola brand, hopes fans will find the ad refreshingly unique.
“Everyone expects a Jordan Spieth commercial to show him on a beautiful golf course doing what he’s known for – hitting a perfect golf shot,” he said. “But we’re showing a part of his personality and life as a pro golfer no one else has yet to show – his competitiveness, his focus, his willingness to push the boundaries of his sport, and his sense of humor.”
The ad will make its TV debut on Saturday during FOX’s coverage of the U.S. Open, a tournament Spieth won last year. All eyes will be on the defending champion and, hopefully, his Coca-Cola spot.
“Throughout my career, I’ve worked on spots I was sure would explode and didn’t, and we’ve had a few surprise hits,” Curtis said. “It will be interesting to see what people think of this one.
“And wouldn’t you know it,” he added, “they’re calling for rain this weekend.”
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