Coca-Cola Mexico has turned to comic books for its Gladiator energy drink brand

Coca-Cola Mexico has turned to comic books for its Gladiator energy drink brand

In this month's marketing brief, marketing analyst Cream Global turns its attention to Mexico, where Coca-Cola has targeted its Gladiator energy drink at the country's workers.

Energy drinks are still a relatively new addition to the soft drink industry. The worldwide launch of Red Bull in the early 1990s created a whole new sub-category that proved extremely popular. Prior to the arrival of Red Bull, energy drinks meant Lucozade, but today there are a plethora of brands available to tired consumers looking for a buzz.

The young nature of the category has fostered a younger consumer audience. While consumers of all ages use energy drinks, marketing activity in the category has been specifically aimed at the young. Extreme sports or pure hedonism are often at the centre of brand communications.

Gladiator, an energy drink from Coca-Cola in Mexico, realised that working class labourers needed high levels of energy to get through their day. While Red Bull is the top energy beverage choice among trendy young adults, Gladiator identified an opportunity to become a champion for the working man.

Gladiator used the image of the 'luchador' – the iconic Mexican wrestler - to connect the brand name to its working-class hero target. These heroes and luchadores both experience the drain of physical labour and the stress of demanding bosses. Both these groups need ways to find more energy to win the day. The Gladiator luchador became a symbol of empowerment and through an unlikely - but hugely popular – medium; comic books.

For the last 50 years, comic books have been a hugely engaging vehicle for the working-class in Mexico, providing a quick escape from reality. Gladiator created a custom comic book, 'Historias de un Taxi' and distributed it with the popular comic 'El Libro Vaquero' (The Cowboy Book). The book depicted a hero taxi driver beating traffic to help damsels in distress, solving mechanical issues with ingenuity and even helping real-life luchadores defeat their enemies (thanks to Gladiator energy).

Gladiator also brought their hero to life through custom video clips during the telecasts of Mexican wrestling matches and on the brand's website. 

Gladiator extolled its everyman hero's ideals of freedom and independence through the phrase, "Haz to Lucha Libra" (Free yourself from the daily fight), with the prize of a ready-to-use taxi, which one winner could use to escape from the office for a day.

By including 'Historias de un Taxi' with the popular comic, Gladiator reached 4.8m working-class, real life luchadores through a medium they heavily consumed. In less than six months Gladiator increased its market share by 22% and brand awareness jumped 29%. Remaining true to the spirit of the luchador, Gladiator took on its chief opponent Red Bull, and grabbed a leading 45% share of convenience store energy drink purchases.