Coca-Cola hopes that this holiday season, families will crack open a few coke, settle in and watch its first Christmas anthology movie series.
The beverage company has partnered with production company Imagine Entertainment to create three short films, available to watch on Amazon Prime worldwide starting wednesday.
The venture is a continuation of Coca-Cola’s Real Magic platform, which takes an experimental approach to marketing the company’s core product.
Over the past year, Real Magic has focused on unique, limited-time flavors like Starlight, Byte, and Dreamworld, which launched alongside digital experiences including a holographic concert and a Fortnite debut. The Christmas Anthology is part of a new platform called Real Magic Presents.
For Coca-Cola ( KO ), it’s important to do more than just sell soda — the soda giant needs to connect with younger consumers and build new traditions, especially as interest in sugary and carbonated soft drinks stagnates.
“We’re always looking at new ways to reach our audience,” said Salman Kiriaga, Coca-Cola’s commercial brand category president, calling Christmas “a great canvas for creativity.” The anthology, according to him, is “a new way of dealing” with the holiday.
Coca-Cola has a history of associating itself with Christmas, so much so that the company has an FAQ page for “Did Coca-Cola create Santa Claus?” (The answer: roughly. In 1931, the company commissioned a painting of Santa that aligns with how he is portrayed in the US today, according to the page.)
In recent years, the company’s polar bears and illuminated trucks have become strongly associated with the holiday.
This year, Coke is trying something a little more elevated.
Following the launch of the Real Magic platform in 2021, Coca-Cola released a video on YouTube called “Real Christmas Magic”, about a boy who bonds with his new neighbors by working together to build a chimney out of cardboard boxes.
This year, the short films are longer – lasting between 10 and 12 minutes – and more ambitious.
There’s “Alma,” which shows a single mother chilled at Christmas as she’s reminded of the holiday cheer by a living computer; “Les Petits Mondes De Noël”, a situational love story about two exes who reunite in Paris; and “Christmas Bites,” about a vampire who wins over his girlfriend’s family when he walks in on Santa on Christmas Eve.
A viewer does not necessarily know that these are Coca Cola films, apart from the fact that in each film there is at least one character who sips Coke.
But for the company, the shorts are more than just product placement. “It allows us to work on content that fits our Real Magic platform,” Careaga said.
The movies aren’t your typical cheesy Christmas movie, and not just because they’re shorts. There are no overt love stories, fat snowflakes swirling around fake sets or ugly sweaters (at least, not too many).
The Hallmark model may be popular in the United States, but it doesn’t necessarily have global appeal, said Mark Gilbert, vice president of brands and documentaries at Imagine Entertainment.
“I mentioned Hallmark movies” to members of the global team working on the project, Gilbert said. “This abbreviation doesn’t mean much to someone in Spain or to someone in Argentina. It’s more focused on our traditions.”
The Coca-Cola anthology is designed to appeal to a global audience. “Alma”, set in Mexico, is in Spanish, and “Les Petits Mondes De Noël”, is in French. Only “Christmas Bites” in English.
And while these are certainly Christmas movies, they’re not overtly religious.
“Christmas means different things to different people,” Gilbert said. “The religious aspect never really came up. It was more about other traditions.”
While Coke is dipping its toes into filmmaking, rival Pepsi has taken a different approach, teaming up with Falling for Christmas star Lindsay Lohan to promote Pilak, or Pepsi Plus Milk, as a holiday tradition.