SBJ/November 19 - 25, 2001/Marketingsponsorship

Coke does new NASCAR deal

Coca-Cola has renewed its NASCAR corporate sponsorship more than a year before its current contract expires. Coke will expand the number of brands it associates with NASCAR in the five-year extension, which industry sources say has a $30 million price tag.

Coke has been expanding its commitment with NASCAR during each year of its original four-year sponsorship, which was due to expire after the 2002 season. The renewal includes official rights for Coke's Dasani bottled water and Minute Maid juice.

"More than any property ... we moved more cases because of NASCAR," said Beatriz Perez, director of motorsports marketing at Coke.

NASCAR had no juice or water sponsors previously. It had experimented with a licensed NASCAR bottled water.

Since Coke wrested NASCAR's cola rights from Pepsi in 1998, it has invested in and leveraged NASCAR like no other property. Coke is a brand whose stable of top-shelf rights includes the Olympics and the NFL.

In addition to its direct sponsorship of NASCAR, Coke's complementary assets include entitlement to the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, 10 Winston Cup drivers in the Coke Racing Family, mobile marketing efforts and an annual round of NASCAR-themed theater ads. More than 500 national, local and account-specific sales programs have been launched.

Perez said, "The support from our bottlers and retailers, many of whom are also big [NASCAR] fans, has also been important for us."

There are now 50,000 NASCAR-themed Coca-Cola vending machines across the country. A co-promotion with fellow NASCAR sponsor Home Depot has placed Tony Stewart Coke vending machines at every Home Depot store.

Making Minute Maid NASCAR's official juice is the latest step of an effort to ramp up sports-marketing efforts behind the Coke brand to equal those of Tropicana, owned by Pepsi. (Minute Maid also gained Final Four rights this year.)

The inclusion of Dasani will be of more than passing interest to incumbent sponsor Gatorade, the Pepsi subsidiary whose biggest competitors are water brands. NASCAR has a history of juggling brands and exclusivities. Consider that NASCAR counts among its sponsors Home Depot, True Value hardware and Sears' Craftsman brands.

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