Coca-Cola inks deal with Premier League in first multi-brand sponsorship

UK boss of Coca-Cola says the deal with Premier League is part of the brand’s global total drink strategy and will allow the company’s less well-known brands to “be part of a regular conversation”.

Coca-Cola has inked a deal with the Premier League – its biggest sponsorship agreement in the UK – as it looks to promote its multi-brand strategy and “accelerate growth” of its low and no-sugar variants.

The three-and-a-half-year partnership will run from January 2019 and showcase a range of drinks from Coke’s portfolio, including Coca-Cola original and zero sugar, Diet Coke, Smartwater, Oasis, Fuze Tea, Schweppes, Fanta, Sprite, Lilt and Dr Pepper, as well as all these products’ zero-sugar variants.

Coca-Cola is in the early stages of planning activations but there will be both digital and physical elements to the campaign, as well as a nationwide Premier League trophy tour.

The deal is part of Coca-Cola‘s strategy to boost growth beyond its core brand and increase sales of its healthier variants.

Jon Woods, general manager of Coca-Cola Great Britain, tells Marketing Week: “This partnership will allow us to accelerate growth on low sugar variants faster and is the beginning of more multi-brand campaigns. It allows us to bring the whole portfolio to life.

“Our strategy is to become a total drinks company and that means growing beyond Coca-Cola to develop a range of drinks to suit more consumers on more occasions. What this partnership allows us to do is to amplify and talk about all those different brands. We will have some brands lead at different times. Some of the brands we haven’t supported that much historically and it allows us to bring them back in the fold in a way we wouldn’t normally do.”

READ MORE: Coca-Cola brings Coke, Fanta and Sprite together in a marketing campaign for the first time

CEO James Quincey had been vocal about his desire for Coca-Cola to become a “total beverage company” as sales of fizzy drinks struggle amid changing consumer habits and concerns about the levels of sugar in some drinks. This strategy has seen a renewed focus in low-sugar variants, with the company branching out into water and most recently coffee with the acquisition of Costa.

This is the beginning of more multi-brand campaigns.

Jon Woods, Coca-Cola

This is not Coca-Cola’s first foray into football. It already sponsors the FIFA World Cup and has previously aligned with football in the UK through a sponsorship of the English Football League and the Coca-Cola Cup.

Coca-Cola is returning to football in the UK, says Woods because of the Premier League’s popularity among a broad demographic.

He explains: “First and foremost, we want this partnership to be always-on because I want to be part of a regular conversation. The reason we do it is football is the number one passion for our consumers and it’s a very sociable sport. But the main attraction of the Premier League is its breadth – it’s in every community, in almost every household right up and down the country.”

The opportunity to sponsor the Premier League came about after the league shifted strategy, dropping its title sponsor approach and instead moving to a multi-brand approach. Coca-Cola joins a roster of six other brands, including former title sponsor Barclays, as well as Cadbury, Nike and Carling.

Richard Masters, managing director of the Premier League, explains the decision process: “Not everyone you ask wants to be a part of the Premier League so we are looking for brands that can provide added value beyond the commercial partnership itself.”

Making Coca-Cola a less risk-averse company

Coca-Cola has released three new products in the UK this year alone: Honest coffee, AdeZ and Fuze Tea. Wood says that “lots of lessons” have been learnt from the past year that he hopes will accelerate innovation in future.

He explains: “We’ve learnt that it is actually a bit more complicated to bring completely new products to market than we thought. You need some slightly different muscles to bring new products to market especially when they’re quite different to what you’re used to.

“For example, AdeZ is very different to Coke; the consumer occasion, the packaging, transportation – it is all new.”

Despite the learning curve, Woods says the pace of change will increase if anything as Coca-Cola looks to be at the forefront of consumer trends. “It’s a reflection of the transformation in the company as we try and grow into this total drinks business. It requires people be a bit faster and take more risks. If you are a marketer that’s fun too – to take a risk and learn from it.”

Woods concludes about plans for next year: “We have much more exciting stuff in the locker. Expect to see more new products, more interesting marketing ideas and more activations with our friends at the Premier League.”

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