Screengrab from Mirage ad

The Big Game may be over, but Coca-Cola’s “Mirage” campaign, which kicked off in late-January, lives on!

If you were one of the 108 million people who tuned into the Big Game last Sunday, you probably saw our newest commercial, titled “Mirage.” It focused on three groups of characters – Cowboys, Badlanders and Showgirls – racing across the desert to capture an icy cold bottle of Coke.  They eventually realized they’d been chasing a desert mirage, and the Coca-Cola that they so desperately desired was yet another 50 miles away…and thus began The Chase!

Fans got involved. Really involved!

They cast nearly 910,000 votes on, then stuck around long enough to conduct almost 7.3 million sabotages. The ad was also watched on YouTube 3 million times, and we tracked more than 86,000 mentions of the program on social media during the campaign.

Our campaign featured the 60-second commercial during the Big Game broadcast, but it expanded far beyond that with digital and social media at the epicenter. Now, more than ever before, the model has changed… It’s not just about television advertising, there must be 360 degrees of entertainment and engagement, making marketing around the Big Game much more complex. We’re seeing it more and more:  smart advertisers are extending their reach to consumers long before, sometimes after, and even deeper into the in-game experience.

We were on the forefront of that trend last year when we asked fans to join the Coca-Cola Polar Bears for an online Polar Bowl party. And they did – millions of people logged on and watched the bears rooting on their favorite team, reacting to commercials and even Vogueing along with halftime performance.

This year we went a step farther, asking fans to actively engage in our campaign, social was being placed at the center rather than holding the supporting role.  Beginning January 22, and lasting through the final whistle of the Big Game, we asked fans to log on to and vote for their favorite team…and then “sabotage” their opponents. It was a way for fans to become actively involved in deciding the storyline of our Big Game campaign.

We hoped our characters would come to life in such a way that fans would want to rally behind their favorite team. We were hoping the new approach would be a success, but the actual response surpassed all the aggressive performance goals we had in place.

And while the spot was created as the centerpiece of a Big Game campaign, it didn’t end with the final whistle. The characters featured in “Mirage” generated such support from fans that we’re not ready to say goodbye to them just yet. The unique nature of the ad and the consumer engagement it generated during our campaign makes it a repeatable idea that will live on long after the game.

In fact, the 30-second payoff ad featuring the Showgirls’ CokeChase victory aired again the following week during American Idol. It was also joined by the “Kalaharian Epilogue,” which features “Mirage” character Vincent De Fairweather, running across all major cable networks. In addition, moviegoers will begin seeing Mirage come to life in cinemas beginning in March.

Pio Schunker is SVP, Integrated Marketing Communications for North America Group at The Coca-Cola Company.