Evan Carr, Matt Winans and Sean Sheridan met for the first time this month after working together nearly every day for more than two years. Their mission? To convince The Coca-Cola Company to bring back SURGE, a citrus soft drink that debuted in 1996 and taken off the market in the early 2000s.

The three Millennials behind The SURGE Movement, a passionate community of more than 148,000 (and counting) Facebook fans, traveled to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta to celebrate the fact that their hard work had paid off. SURGE officially returned to the market Monday after a 12-year hiatus through an innovative distribution deal with Amazon.com.

Coke's decision to give SURGE an encore was made, in part, based on the SURGE Movement’s creative and persistent lobbying efforts over the last few years. The group’s clever tactics include raising nearly $4,000 in 2013 to buy a billboard just down the road from Coke’s headquarters and mobilizing members to “Surge” Coke’s consumer affairs hotline en masse. Last December, they even sent handwritten cards to the company asking to bring back SURGE for Christmas.

We caught up with Carr, Winans and Sheridan last week to learn more about the journey of the SURGE Movement and how they plan to celebrate their beloved brand’s return. Take a look:

Tell us about the day you got word that SURGE would be coming back. What was your reaction?

EC: It was around 3:30 a.m. I was pretty bummed out because I was already at work (at a major delivery company) and could have used a SURGE. It was after a night of sending a heartfelt but frustrated email to Coke's Consumer Affairs Department and attaching some guessed email addresses. That message pulled on a few heartstrings and opened some eyes to the demand for SURGE. I received an email from Coca-Cola North America President, Mr. Sandy Douglas. The words I read made me feel like a kid at Christmas. I still do. Way to go, Sandy. Way to go. 

SURGE Movement
Evan Carr

MW: Evan immediately texted me with a screenshot of Sandy’s message. I couldn’t stop jumping up and down like a little kid.

SS: I literally couldn’t stay standing. I was so excited, I alternated between bouts of jumping and uncontrollable school-girl giggling, and collapsing to my knees.

What are your fondest SURGE memories from yesteryear?

MW: SURGE was the "cool alternative" for almost all of my friends. Even the iconic logo designed for SURGE was perfect because the splat design somehow epitomized the ‘90s lifestyle. My fondest SURGE memories would have to be camping. Whether it was sitting around a fire or on the road with a canoe on top of my dad’s Jeep, a SURGE was in my hand.

SS: When SURGE was in its prime, I spent a lot of time at a marina in Old Hickory, Tennessee, where my really cool stepfather used to have a sailboat. I used to hang out on the dock or go out onto the Cumberland River on a little dinghy, and I would always stop at the little shop on the dock and buy a bottle of SURGE to take with me.

EC: I remember hot summer days and always having an ice-cold SURGE with me. I look forward to those days returning.

How did you feel when it was taken off the market?

EC: I was really bummed out. SURGE was a huge part of my life, and still is. I always knew it would see the light of day again.

MW: I was devastated. With the amount of people I knew that loved SURGE, I couldn’t help wonder how it was even possible. It was an empty feeling.

SS: I was heartbroken. I had never identified with a brand the way I identified with this one. The first time my usual places stopped carrying it, I went on an active search to find somewhere else to buy it. I would make regular trips to find it so I could encourage them to keep it by buying it often. My sadness was tempered by a fierce determination to one day find a way to get SURGE back.

SURGE Movement
Sean Sheridan

How and when did the SURGE Movement get started?

EC: It was right before Christmas in 2011. I was feeling reminiscent about SURGE and wanted to know who else felt the same way. There weren't any communities for the brand, but I knew there were other fanatics out there just like me. That's when I decided to create the page. Look at us now!

What was your initial vision for the movement?

EC: Originally, I wanted to see who else remembered SURGE. I wanted it to be a community where people could share stories, photos and more. Luckily, the cards were in our favor. We exploded in size, and now you're here reading this.

MW: Little to Evan’s surprise, there were hundreds, but much to his surprise, there were thousands that would represent an endlessly growing community. In early 2008, I created Facebook’s official SURGE fan page. The amount of people who continued to like my page blew me away, and eventually that rate of growth drove me to put the page to good use. I was aware of the SURGE Movement after it started and wanted my page to join forces with it. My audience had around 8,000 followers, about double what the Movement had at this early point, so I was happy to kick-start my own SURGE activism by helping boost the Movement’s membership.

It didn’t take long before the Movement’s size surpassed my community. I mentioned to Evan that I had done a lot of video work and could help him out. Within a couple months, he took me up on the offer. Little would I know after becoming an admin that I would be working my butt off with Evan (and very soon, Sean) every single day until we’d be standing on a stage in the Coca-Cola headquarters drinking a SURGE in person!

SS: As soon as I found the Movement, I knew I had to support it the best I could. I saw great potential in this modest gathering of people and decided if I wanted it to be successful, I needed to be the reason, rather than expecting someone else to do it for me. 

SURGE Movement
Matt Winans

How quickly did the community grow?

EC: It was a steady pace for a while. Suddenly, we began to grow like wildfire.

SS: What was surprising, at first anyway, was how fast the Movement grew in numbers with no advertising budget. It was truly an organically viral phenomenon, growing at no fewer than 1,000 new members per month.

MW: At one time we thought that our average of 1,000 new members per month was an incredible feat until we experienced several growth spurts. Our most popular post was seen on Oct. 15, 2013, when we gained over 37,500 new members within 24 hours.

What types of content do you guys share on the page?

EC: We ask for a lot of community involvement. We ask questions and post "Throwback Thursday" photos. Since we found out about Coca-Cola's plan to bring to product back, we've approached the Movement a little differently. Our original mission was a success. We will continue to engage our members and find new ways to keep everyone involved. It's important that everyone knows that they play a part in SURGE's revival.

MW: We’ve shared every possible type of content on the page: videos, photos, links and text. We have also posted many milestones along the way, as well, and often a member of our community posts interesting content that we share to the entire page to keep our community engaged.

When did you guys start organizing the “Surging Days”, and how did they work?

SS: Our first organized “SURGE Coke” day was on March 13, 2012. We had been encouraging our members to call since the beginning but, after having it suggested to us, decided in April 2013 to organize our mass call-in days on the last Friday of every month. After a while, the Consumer Affairs representatives caught on and began expecting our calls. The responses have varied in enthusiasm, from exasperation over fielding thousands of calls, to excitement and encouragement.

Tell us about the crowd-funded billboard campaign. How much money did you raise? When and where was the billboard displayed?

SURGE Movement

MW: With our numbers around 11,000 in September 2012, we needed to launch a fun project to engage our community’s participation. The concept, funding and message were all a community effort to help illustrate our dedication and passion to the SURGE brand. This resulted in featured stories on widely recognized news sites, such as CNN Money, Business Insider, Yahoo! News, in addition to BuzzFeed on numerous occasions. There were 143 total contributions to our billboard campaign, 43 percent of which were above $50. We raised exactly $3,837 of our $3,745 goal.

SS: We wanted to convey the loyalty and enthusiasm of SURGE fans even after 10 years, to show that we had the money to spend to make it profitable, and to get widespread notoriety to call attention to the cause and make it newsworthy and catch the eye of other SURGE fans who had yet to discover the Movement. If we had been unable to collect enough, it very well could have been the end. The message was suggested and voted on by members in a contest on our page, and it read: “Dear Coke, we couldn’t buy SURGE so we bought this billboard instead.” 

EC: Had we not heard back from Coke, a bigger campaign was in the works for a $10,000 billboard much closer to the headquarters. Luckily, they saw the potential in a SURGE comeback before we got that far!

What other tactics did you try in order to reach someone at Coca-Cola with a response?

MW: We had many tactics up our sleeves. When I say SURGE as a verb, I’m referring to a combined effort of hundreds or sometimes even thousands working on one common goal. There are many Coca-Cola Facebook pages all posting content, often asking for consumers to speak their minds about something. These were prime opportunities for our Movement to speak their minds… to SURGE. It was entertaining to see our members creatively keep their responses in perfect context for these dozens of Coca-Cola pages. We were also filling out feedback forms on the Coca-Cola website, and the Coca-Cola Idea Submission Form on www.CokeSubmit.com. And, if your mail sorters had a little extra work to do last Christmas, that was us. We’d been writing handwritten letters to Coca-Cola with the theme “All we want for Christmas is SURGE.” In fact, we even had a contest for this to involve as many people as we could. People submitted creative drawings and custom-made cards. It was really neat to see our members put that much effort into a single task.

SS: Throughout the entire process, we always emphasized the need to be courteous and respectful.  

What was it like visiting Coke and meeting the other two guys for the first time?

EC: It was an amazing experience. It felt like I had known Matt and Sean forever. We all got along like brothers.

MW: We’d been working together every day for the last two to two-and-a-half years, so to finally have had an opportunity to meet in person was an extremely amazing experience! It literally took about a minute of synchronization to comprehend that we were each standing in the same physical place.

SS: I remember thinking they were both a lot taller than I imagined, and it was a little weird looking up at them. But being in the same room and being able to talk and laugh about the good times we’d had, and the one’s we’d certainly have in the coming days, was an incredibly uplifting and joyful experience.  

SURGE Movement
Celebrating the return of SURGE at Coca-Cola headquarters.

You toured the Coca-Cola archives and the World of Coke, and the team even surprised you with an unannounced SURGE comeback celebration. What was that like?

MW: If I had to name the single most exciting “dream-like” moment of my life, it would be walking into the surprise SURGE party. Coca-Cola employees were all gathered in a big room, wearing tie-dyed SURGE shirts I actually helped design. They were reaching out to shake our hands, giving constant applause, holding up and waving giant SURGE can printouts, throwing out high-fives while the three of us walked up a green rug not far from a ‘90s table holding SURGE everything (cheese balls, SURGE cake, etc.), with ‘90s music playing from a playlist we had the Movement select, a projector showing "SURGE IS BACK!" images, giant “SURGE IS BACK!” poster boards and of course, SURGE from the new production run, on ice and in SURGE coolers. I had to seriously mull over whether or not the moment was real life or heaven.

We were handed the "first cans to be opened" in front of the audience and were told to crack them open. We cheered and took our first drinks of glory. These cans will be placed in display cases in the Coke archives with our engraved names. Over a microphone, staff members talked about how this is the first time Coca-Cola has decided to bring back a discontinued product, and we were reminded that this is also the first time a Coca-Cola brand would be launched online to start off, exclusively. We each gave impromptu speeches on behalf of the Movement. It was an overwhelming honor for us to be there in this space, representing this amazing community that had worked together so hard to make this happen.

EC: I can't describe the feeling that came over me when I turned the corner and saw the surprise SURGE party. The energy behind the relaunch of this product is so full of life and energy.

SS: They made us feel like celebrities every step of the way. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to everyone involved and I will strive with all my being to live up to all their expectations and carry this brand successfully into the future. The team was just as excited as we were. 

How will you, personally, celebrate the return of SURGE?

EC: If I had my way, I would fill a pool up with SURGE and swim in it.

SS: My wife and I will sit down together and order our first case, just in time for our 10-year wedding anniversary on Thursday. And I’m excited to crack open a can with my best friend on the phone as he enjoys a SURGE of his own, while we reminisce about old times. It’s going to be a day to mark on the calendar to remember for the rest of my life.

Did you ever think this day would come?

EC: I knew a lot of people were out there who felt the way I do. It was only a matter of time before Coke realized their best product wasn't on the market.

MW: I wouldn’t have invested the time I had if I didn’t think it was possible. Economics 101 taught me the principle of supply and demand, and I knew it would be only a matter of time before we broke the barrier.

Will the ‘SURGE Movement’ live on?

EC: Absolutely! We've got something special going on that isn't going away. We will continue to work with Coca-Cola and engage our members and strengthen and grow the brand. Ultimately, everyone would like to see it on shelves again.

MW: The SURGE Movement isn’t just a community of SURGE fans. We're real consumers who want to see the brand’s success. We are honored to have conquered the toughest phase of this revival process—the mission to bring the product back. Now we are on to the next phase to make SURGE a long-term success.

SS: Our mission is not complete. SURGE was the greatest, most delicious soda to ever grace the lips of mortal man, but nevertheless it went away. We need to ensure it never goes away again. So the Movement will go on, spreading the word and mobilizing its members to bring SURGE to potential future fans.

Note: Coca-Cola initially produced a limited supply of SURGE to help gauge product demand, and worked with the guys at The SURGE Movement to get the word out to the brand’s most loyal fans. The launch ignited overwhelming demand, prompting temporary out-of stocks on Amazon.com. The company is producing more with the plan to supply Amazon within the next few weeks. The future of SURGE 
depends, in part, on how much excitement the Company continues to see from fans across the country. 

Follow @Surge on Twitter for updates.