updated 3/31/2006 8:32:23 AM ET 2006-03-31T13:32:23

The Coca-Cola Co., the world’s largest beverage maker, hopes to make its products more important to people and relevant in their lives with its latest advertising campaign.

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The campaign, dubbed “The Coke Side of Life,” is aimed at increasing sales of its core carbonated soft drink brands in key markets. The Atlanta-based company gave a sneak peak at the campaign Thursday.

“It’s about rekindling why people love the product and why people love the brand at the same time,” Marc Mathieu, a Coca-Cola marketing executive, told reporters.

The commercials will include television ads that begin airing in the United States this weekend during broadcasts of the NCAA Final Four on CBS and American Idol on Fox. There also will be billboards, newspaper ads and online videos.

The marketing campaign, which will launch in other markets over the next several months, comes as industrywide sales volume of carbonated soft drinks fell last year in the United States for the first time since 1985. According to the publication Beverage Digest, volume slipped 0.2 percent. Excluding energy drinks, it fell 0.7 percent.

Beverage Digest said Coca-Cola’s carbonated soft drink sales volume slipped 0.1 percent in the U.S. last year. Meanwhile, comparable U.S. sales rose 0.6 percent for Cadbury Schweppes PLC and fell 1.2 percent at PepsiCo Inc.’s Pepsi division, the trade publication said.

When the new campaign was announced in December, marketing chief Mary Minnick said the goal was to make Coca-Cola’s beverages more relevant to consumers. She said the company has been studying “the underlying psychology of beverages” to understand “why consumers are drinking what, when and where.”

The goal is to sell the brand, not just the beverage, Minnick said at the time.

The company’s previous slogan was “Coca-Cola: Make It Real,” spokeswoman Susan McDermott said. Past slogans have included “Life Tastes Good,” “Coca-Cola: Enjoy” and “Always Coca-Cola.”

The new ad campaign was developed by Wieden+Kennedy, a Portland, Ore., firm that has worked with Nike Inc. and Starbucks Corp.

Coca-Cola spends roughly $2 billion a year worldwide on marketing. Its North America unit is a key portion of that figure.

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