SBD/March 31, 2017/Marketing and Sponsorship

Coca-Cola In As MLB Partner, Leaving Pepsi Looking For Big Summer Sports Platform

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Coke has long held the majority of MLB team sponsorship deals
Coca-Cola has completed a new corporate sponsorship with MLB and the deal could be announced as soon as Opening Day. Coke has long held the majority of MLB team sponsorship deals, but has been frustrated in recent years, because without league rights, Pepsi had access to MLB's digital and social media channels, even as they became increasingly important. Coke’s new deal will center on those assets, along with the usual TV buys across MLB media partners. With the Angels moving from Pepsi to Coke in the offseason, the Atlanta-based beverage brand now has 18 team deals compared to Pepsi's 11 (the A's have a pouring rights deal with locally-based Zevia). Octagon Chair & CEO Rick Dudley, who had a stint with MLB, said, "Coke had all the team rights, so it makes sense to combine all those rights. From a seasonality standpoint, baseball may be the best national property for a soft-drink brand. You might argue a bit with the demo, but we’re at the point that you could say that about almost any of the big properties. This is a ‘new baseball’ off the field and they have the best bundle and best control over their digital assets of any league.’’ Specific activation plans could not be learned, but sources expect a baseball/Americana play, similar to MLB and Chevy, which has been an MLB sponsor since '05. An agency source said, "You are talking about two brands with more than 275 years of history between them, so this is going to be a summer long digital/social red white and blue All-American play behind the core brand (Coca-Cola)."

THE OTHER GUYS: Meanwhile, Pepsi's Gatorade brand is remaining an MLB sponsor after 27 years with the league. The switch to Coke also will make MLB promos more difficult for league sponsor Papa John’s, since it pours Pepsi. Former Millsport Chair Bob Basche, who helped drive the MLB-Pepsi deal 20 years ago, said, "Changing over your soft-drink sponsor is never easy. If you’re a team, it means swapping out every soda line in the stadium; if you’re a league, it means adjusting to a whole new set of marketing priorities." While Pepsi's roster of marquee MLB team sponsorships includes the Cubs and Yankees, on a national level, this move leaves Pepsi with no big summer sports platform. Sources said to watch for an entertainment play from Pepsi during that crucial sales period. In the winter months, Pepsi has league sponsorships with the NBA, NFL and NHL.
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