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Coke Adds Flavor to its Long-Running Houston Rodeo Sponsorship with a Texas-Style Ice House

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The Ice House activation was designed to be shareable, sustainable and flexible.

They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo—and its 30th year sponsoring the event—Coca-Cola took the adage to heart and trotted into the event with a new 3,500-square-foot, Texas-style Ice House activation. The larger-than-life, open-air footprint served as a destination where attendees of all ages could gather, take a break from the bustling show (this year Feb. 28-March 20), kick up their boots and stay awhile.

According to the brand, the scale of the Coca-Cola Ice House was not only designed to represent Coke’s status as a heritage partner and align with the “go big or go home” attitude, but also to meet consumers’ rising expectations of what an in-person brand experience entails as the world continues to reopen. Throughout the Houston event, Coke rose to the occasion with shareable moments, games, music and a selection of classic, new and exclusive products.

It was hard to miss the giant, red “Coca-Cola Ice House” sign hanging above the footprint, but if that didn’t catch attendees’ eyes, there were plenty of other experience design elements likely to prompt a double-take. Dripping with Texas flair, the installation featured corrugated metal, wood, steel, neon signs and other industrial-inspired décor elements that created an authentic Texas ice house vibe (“ice house” is an old concept that now generally refers to any rustic, open-air bar).

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Coke says the caliber of the build’s craftsmanship prompted an abundance of user-generated content, as did curated photo ops and an 18-foot-tall replica Coca-Cola bottle planted on-site. Influencers seeded throughout the event also helped drum up buzz for the activation on social. To boot, the brand was surprised and delighted to discover that local media had taken an interest in the thematic space, and ultimately used it as a backdrop to film several news segments about the event at large.

Additional touchpoints encompassed a hook and ring game, an Ice House Outfitters where attendees could customize hats, bags and apparel with rodeo- and Coca-Cola-themed patches (including an exclusive 90th anniversary patch) and, of course, a giant concession stand with a slew of beverages to choose from. In addition to traditional products from Coke’s portfolio, like Original Taste and Zero Sugar, attendees could try Coca-Cola Creations Starlight, the brand’s new “space-themed” flavor, as well as Coca-Cola with Coffee, including the newly-launched mocha flavor. The idea was to give a broad swath of consumers access to certain SKUs they might not always have access to.

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The activation offered a respite from the hustle and bustle of the larger-than-life rodeo, which draws 2.5 million people.

“As a heritage sponsor, we’ve always tried to find ways to make sure there’s mutual value,” says Ryan Keen, senior marketing manager at the Coca-Cola Company. “The event is obviously an institution in Texas and in Houston, and for us, it’s a great place to reach a large consumer base and tap into that passion. There are a lot of other components that make that partnership valuable—the mutual focus on sustainability, on a great consumer experience, on providing a gathering place for not just one type of consumer, but families and a diverse set of consumers. So we’ve been able to collaborate as we’ve become more sophisticated and they’ve become more sophisticated in developing programs and campaigns that don’t just follow the lines of a contract, but figuring out what makes the most sense to help us achieve those mutual objectives.”

The good news is that the Ice House activation wasn’t a one-and-done program, meaning more consumers will have a chance to experience it. Coke specifically built the installation with sustainability and flexibility in mind, as its bones are comprised of reclaimed shipping containers. The Coca-Cola Ice House experience will return to the rodeo in 2023 and beyond, and Coke plans to transport the activation to other regional events where it can connect with consumers around a major passion point, whether it’s something community-oriented, music or sports.

“Especially as younger generations have prioritized experiences over material things, we’ve wanted to make sure we’ve leaned into that,” says Keen. “It’s also where people are. Obviously, we want to make sure that we’re connecting with shoppers in retail and we want to make sure we’re connecting with them digitally through social and online. But at the end of the day, they are seeking these experiences, especially coming out of Covid. They want to be able to interact with friends and family, and we want to provide a place for that to happen.” Agency: Momentum Worldwide.

Get a Quick Tour of the Space:
@rodeohouston Come check out the new @Coca-Cola US Ice House, located between the Astrodome and NRG Stadium! 🤠 #RODEOHOUSTON ♬ original sound – RODEOHOUSTON

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
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