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Coca-Cola, the world's largest soft drink maker, has confirmed that it is "evaluating" sponsorship of Formula One but suggests that this is not likely to involve its flagship brand.
The news that one of the best-known brands in America is looking at F1 gives the sport a big moral boost as it re-enters the country for the first time in five years with this weekend's inaugural United States Grand Prix in Austin. However, it shouldn't come as a big surprise to regular readers of Pitpass.
We first hinted at this news back in June in a piece entitled 'waiting for the real thing', a nod to the brand's famous slogan. It was then confirmed by Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt who revealed that Emmanuel Seuge, Coca-Cola's head of global sports and entertainment marketing, had been researching F1, as well as the drinks sponsorships in the sport.
Sylt has unique visibility of companies which are considering an involvement with F1. In addition to being our business editor he also authors F1's industry monitor Formula Money which is used by companies considering an involvement with F1 be it as a race, sponsor, technical partner or investor.
Long before potential sponsors make contact with teams and before prospective race organisers get in touch with F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone, they undertake research about roughly how much money they will be expected to pay. A quick search online leads them to Formula Money which is essentially an all-in-one business guide to F1. Not only is it bought by all the current teams and manufacturers in F1 but also potential stakeholders such as the state of Texas which hosts this weekend's US Grand Prix and bought Formula Money the year before its race contract was signed. Looking at the Formula Money buyers list gives good visibility of companies considering entering F1. Which brings us nicely to Coca-Cola.
In the wake of the initial revelation about Coca-Cola considering sponsoring F1, further reports about the soft drink maker's ambitions soon began to emanate from the paddock. "Is Coca Cola giving Formula 1 a serious look? From what I understand of the situation, yes it is," said Will Buxton, SPEED Channel's F1 pit reporter. However, there were still some ill-informed naysayers. One claimed that "you are dreaming if you think there is Coca-Cola money for F1." He added "F1 is simply not the right place for them to be. It has a shonky image because of things like Germany and Bahrain. Not to mention the sporting scandals and the politics of the last 10 years."
Nevertheless, the talk about Coca-Cola's interest in F1 wouldn't die down and last month Ecclestone told Sylt that "if they do come in I think they will come in with one of their energy drink brands not Coke itself. The only time Coke would perhaps get involved with something, other than what they currently do, is if Pepsi got in." That has been confirmed by Coca-Cola itself.
"Both I, personally, and the company have great respect for Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One and what they have done," says Scott McCune, VP, global partnerships and experiential marketing for The Coca-Cola Company. He adds "they have built a phenomenal platform and you can see its popularity. We look at that and see if there is a brand fit for us. We are evaluating that right now."
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