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Volume 21 No. 34
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Coca-Cola returns to Derby in five-year deal

The Coca-Cola colors, worn by jockey Calvin Borel, are back at Churchill Downs.
Churchill Downs Inc. signed a five-year agreement with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Consolidated that makes Coca-Cola the official and exclusive soft drink of the Kentucky Derby.

Financial terms were not disclosed. Coca-Cola replaces Pepsi, which had a deal with the Louisville, Ky.-based company’s namesake racetrack going back to 1999. Coca-Cola’s previous relationship with Churchill Downs is thought to have gone back from 1999 at least as far as the 1940s.

The bottling company will produce special commemorative Coca-Cola bottles for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May in 2018. The Derby appeared on commemorative Coke bottles in the 1980s and ’90s.

“There are certainly going to be some flagship staples that you’ll see as part of this partnership,” said Heather Hucks, Coca-Cola Consolidated senior director of brand marketing. Coca-Cola Consolidated is the largest independent bottler of Coke in the United States.

In addition to pouring rights, Coca-Cola Consolidated is planning promotions and activations during Derby Week.

The move follows Coca-Cola Consolidated’s building a $12 million sales and distribution center in the Louisville area in 2015. The facility employs 350 people and distributes Coca-Cola products to 21 counties in the Kentucky region.

The partnership came after lengthy discussions between Hucks and Kristin Warfield, Churchill Downs Inc. vice president of partnerships.

“We had a wonderful partnership with Pepsi,” Warfield said, “It’s just sometimes change is somewhere you need to go. And we found a fantastic partner in Coca-Cola.”