Hokie Fan Turns His Basketball Superstition Into the Latest Coca-Cola Commercial
by Bryan Schamus
January 26, 2007 As each week and month go by, the Virginia Tech men's basketball team continues to reach new heights as a nationally ranked ACC basketball team. As of this writing, the Hokies find themselves at No. 24 in the AP Poll and No. 23 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll. They're building a resume that features wins over then-No. 5 Duke and then-No. 1 North Carolina, and they continue to hold onto an undefeated 10-0 record in Cassell Coliseum. But no accomplishment is as unique as the one involving a fan and some Coke containers. "If I could convince the entire Hokie Nation to pick up this ritual, we would go undefeated in every single sport." These are the words of Nick Bennett - Virginia Tech alumnus, Hokie fanatic, and quite possibly the most superstitious Coke drinker around. Bennett, a member of the Virginia Tech class of 1998, is the star of Coke's latest commercial. He plays the role of a superstitious Hokie basketball fan that drinks Coke constantly throughout a game while spelling out a VT with his empty cans. Just a good acting job? Or is this really what it is like for this McLean, Va., native, now living in Los Angeles? "Pretty much ... yes," Bennett said. "It's all true, except there would just be a whole lot more yelling." It all started for Bennett as a student at Virginia Tech from 1993 to 1998. During this time he witnessed first hand the Hokies NIT basketball championship in 1995. "I went to as many basketball games as I could when I was at Tech," Bennett said. "It was a really exciting time." Bennett always wanted to be an actor. But after his older brothers had graduated from Tech in engineering and business, he was expected to have a similar performance and without the acting. "I started as an accounting major, then went to marketing," Bennett said. "Throughout the entire time I was taking theatre classes and performing in plays. I ended as a triple major in marketing, accounting and theatre." After Tech, Bennett went west to pursue his love for acting. And in November of 2006 he came across an online ad from Coke. They were looking for Coke related superstitions or a Coke related story. "Hot!" Bennett recalled thinking to himself. "This is me. There is nobody more neurotic with a Coke superstition than I am." Bennett explained that the casting call is usually inside a studio and was surprised when he showed up to find this one in an open park. "I thought it a little sketchy at first, but they were just trying to get the real person-type feel rather than an actor," Bennett said. "They called me back. They loved my story. I had a couple of meetings after that. Once they liked me and liked my story, it was a done deal." But before they could film this soon-to-be famous Hokie commercial, the people at Coke wanted one more thing: Hokie birds, caps and any knick-knack Bennett could find. Bennett, now living in a studio apartment, didn't have the room he had in college for all his Hokie treasures. So the people at Coke sent him to Blacksburg to go on a shopping spree. And after watching the Hokie football team take down the University of Virginia, 17-0, in Lane Stadium/Worsham Field on Thanksgiving weekend, Bennett went down to Main Street and did just that. The commercial was filmed on Dec. 1, 2006. "It was a great experience," Bennett said. The day of filming started at 9:30 a.m., and ended at 7 p.m. Of that time, only four hours were on camera. The rest of the time was filled with hair, make-up, wardrobe and talking to the director. "They sat me on the couch," Bennett said. "The director sat behind the camera and kept asking me questions. So it was just 4 hours of talking to the camera. I had no idea what the final product was going to look like. I really like the way it turned out." Even when the Hokies' basketball games don't make it onto the TV in California, the ritual still must go on. "We don't get all the games out here, so I sit at my computer and keep hitting refresh so it gives me the last three plays that happened," Bennett said. "I still do my entire Coke ritual, but I have to keep hitting the refresh key. I'm a little nutty that way." Bennett is very excited as to what this commercial can mean to Virginia Tech. "I had no idea they were going to put my name in the commercial," Bennett said. "But more importantly, I was so happy to promote Virginia Tech. In the early 1990's we watched our football team turn around with national exposure from games televised by ESPN. This commercial isn't an ESPN game by any means, but hopefully every little, last bit of exposure will help, especially with a big world-known company like Coke." And as the wins continue to pile high, basketball is becoming increasingly important to the Hokie Nation. "I had huge hopes for our basketball team this year...but even going into that week [Jan. 6-13], I didn't think there was a prayer that we could beat both Duke and North Carolina," Bennett said. "Deep down I hoped we would." What makes the Hokies stand out from the other 325 NCAA Division I schools? "Fans," Bennett said. "The fans are the same from when I was there. I really do believe we have some of the best collegiate sports fans in the country; how far and well we travel for games and the amount of energy that's there. Hokies are amazing. Who else can sit there with those rubber turkey callers during a game and think that is awesome?" And so amazing Hokie fans, the team and Nick Bennett need your help. "These ad agencies really do listen to feedback," Bennett said. "They want to know if their ad is generating a positive response. If fans love the commercial, they should write to Coke, urging them to air it more often." The No. 24 ranked men's basketball team is making history every time it takes the court. This is one way fans can have a part in showing the world what the Hokie Nation is all about. "This is insane," Bennett said. "Nobody could ever dream about this back when I was in school."
Bryan Schamus is a Tech junior from Ashburn, Va. majoring in communication, with a minor in music.