How The Coca‑Cola Company is Refreshing Hoops Fans + Putting a Slam Dunk on Waste at NCAA® Men’s & Women’s March Madness Tournament


Coca‑Cola® Zero Sugar is cheering on the thirsty work of college basketball’s most passionate fans with new March Madness-inspired creative airing throughout the men’s and women’s tournaments.

A pair of TV spots hero men’s and women’s NCAA hoops diehards, celebrating the creativity and intensity that can separate wins from losses and showing how Coke Zero Sugar provides the refreshing uplift to power through the highs and lows of March Madness.

“Coke Zero Sugar knows NCAA fans are the ones cheering the loudest, tailgating the longest and pouring their heart and soul into their favorite team – whether at the game or from afar,” said Charece Williams Gee, Vice President, Entertainment & Influencer Marketing and Partnerships, Coca‑Cola North America. “Fan work is thirsty work—from the rituals to the chants to the fits of disappointment and all other aspects of college basketball culture—so we want to ensure everyone cheering on their beloved NCAA team is seen, celebrated and refreshed.

The March Madness campaign is an extension of the “Best Coke Ever?” platform, a creative call to action for consumers to try the recently reformulated Coke Zero Sugar and answer the question for themselves. The spots feature Coke Zero Sugar NCAA partner schools competing in the tournaments alongside former collegiate basketball stars Jay Williams (Duke) and Aliyah Boston (South Carolina).

“Few people know the impact of a roaring fan base more than Jay and Aliyah, which is why we decided to partner with them,” Anne Carelli, Director of Creative Strategy, Coca‑Cola Trademark North America. “We wanted to show that even legends in the sport—and those still at the top of the game—are, first and foremost, fans of their alma maters. They’re cheering alongside the rest of us and staying uplifted and refreshed with ice-cold Coke Zero Sugar.”

 For the first time throughout its longstanding partnership with the NCAA, Coke Zero Sugar is producing updated versions of its March Madness spot based on the results from the Elite Eight round of games. Inspired by the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the NCAA tournament, the Coke Zero Sugar team produced real-time cuts of the ad featuring the Final Four teams for both brackets in the days leading up to the action in Cleveland (women’s) and Phoenix (men’s). The revamped ads will air during the respective semifinal showdowns on April 5 (women’s) and April 6 (men’s) alongside the in-broadcast Coke Zero Sugar Thirsty Fan Cam featuring fans cheering during free throws.

The brand will refresh and engage fans in both host cities with sampling featuring commemorative sleek cans of Coke Zero Sugar, outdoor advertising and experiential activations including photo booths and AI-powered interactive zones where attendees can create animated “Best Fan Ever” videos. Coke Studio will serve as the presenting sponsor of the Men’s March Madness Music Fest in Phoenix, and a partnership with Boys and Girls Club of America in Cleveland will cap off a four-week workforce readiness program for local youth with an open practice. Williams and Boston will join the action in Phoenix and Cleveland, respectively.

Fans around the country can get in on the madness with Snapchat AR lenses, and Coke Zero Sugar will host on-campus watch parties at Final Four partner schools.

Not only will The Coca‑Cola Company be keeping fans refreshed throughout the tournament but will also ensure the Men’s & Women’s Final Four® venues have a certified closed loop for beverage packaging - meaning that all beverage bottles and cans collected will be recycled and remade into new food grade packaging.

Along with longstanding marquis partner, Circular Solutions Advisors, The Coca‑Cola Company is working with State Farm Stadium and Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse to ensure best-in-class recycling infrastructure is in place at tournament venues and is collaborating with local materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and PET reclaimers to significantly boost the amount of material collected -  helping to drive a circular economy.

“At The Coca‑Cola Company we are just as passionate about driving circularity for our packaging as we know the fans are about the March Madness tournament,” says Kurt Ritter, Vice President and General Manager Sustainability, North America. “Ensuring the Final Four® venues have a certified closed loop for beverage packaging will help us divert waste away from landfills and increase the availability of recycled plastic and aluminum materials that can be used over and over again. This is just the beginning of our journey to collaborate with all of our strategic partnership venues such as universities, live entertainment venues and sporting arenas to become certified closed loop for beverage packaging this year, helping bring us one step closer to a circular economy.”

The best-in-class recycling infrastructure—which includes “Who’s Your Champion” recycling bins where fans can toss their recyclables in the bin that represents their favorite team, with on-site support from Green Team ambassadors—is estimated to result in 160,000 pounds of beverage bottles and cans upcycled into new beverage packaging.

Fans can stop by the Recycle for Merch activation in Tourney Town and at the March Madness Music Festival® taking place throughout the weekend at Hance Park to recycle their bottles and redeem them for merch. 100% recycled plastic bottles (excluding cap and label) will be available throughout the tournament events to keep fans refreshed and hydrated.

In 2023 alone, over 60 million pounds of aluminum and PET were collected and captured through The Coca‑Cola Company’s partnership with Circular Solutions Advisors. The company is working to double that number in 2024, advancing towards its 2030 goal of collecting a bottle and can for each one sold, as part of its World Without Waste sustainability strategy.

In 2022, the company helped reclaim more than 40,000 pounds of recycled materials at the Women's Final Four® at Target Center in Minneapolis, and more than 129,000 bottles and cans were recycled during the 2023 Men’s Final Four® in Houston.