Coca-Cola tries to lock supermarkets out of Olympic sponsorship

Coca-Cola is leveraging its influence with the International Olympic Committee to prevent LOCOG signing up any UK supermarkets as sponsors for the 2012 Olympics.

Sources suggest that the organising committee for 2012, Locog, has been in talks with Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer about the possibility of becoming the official supermarket partner for the 2012 games.

Coca-Cola has complained to the IOC that such a deal would damage its own promotional campaigns in the run-up to the Games.

There is speculation that if a supermarket signed up as an official sponsor it could use the Olympic emblems on its own-brand carbonates, juices and water. One observer says that for its sponsorship investment Coca-Cola is trying to not only control its own categories but to “lock out the retail categories.”

It is thought that Coca-Cola put the issue on the table at the recent IOC meeting in Copenhagen when the 2016 host nation, Brazil, was chosen. A source says: “This is going to the highest levels of the IOC.”

A Coca-Cola spokesperson says: “As a worldwide sponsor of the Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company has through the IOC supported the success of the Olympic Games for more than 80 years. We are working closely with LOCOG and the IOC to ensure London 2012 is a success, in line with our long-term sponsorship agreement.”

The soft drinks company pays an estimated £20million a year for global marketing rights.

A London 2012 spokesperson says: “Retailing sponsorships are complex due to the wide range of products retailers carry. We need to make sure any deals we do in this sector do not impinge on any rights already purchased by the top and domestic sponsors, so we are working through these complexities.”

Tier one sponsors signed up for 2012 so far include Lloyds TSB, BT, EDF and British Airways.

A row has broken out over The O2 and it looks like the venue, which is being used as an Olympic 2012 sports venue, will have to be rebadged during the games to protect the sponsorship rights of BT.

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