Tag Archives: Coca-Cola

The Future is Now – And I Met Him!

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

Figure 1: Credit NY Times

While attending IEG2015, the sponsorship industry’s annual trek to mecca, amidst the plethora of inspiring presentations from such thought leaders and trend-setters such Target, adidas, and Heineken, I came across one young college athlete that personified the seismic shift in the way we need to be thinking about the sports and live events of the future.

His name is Blake Soberania (blakesoberania@gmail.com / twitter: @lots_of_bs) and he is part of Robert Morris University’s e-sports Eagles, and one of the five recipients of the world’s first academic scholarships for e-sports. Take a moment to think about that.

That’s right. E-sports, what we Boomers and Gen-Y & X’ers used to call, (typically in a condescending tone) video games. Universities across the country have e-sports teams that compete in regional and national leagues, host championships, follow official rule-books, and have announcers, sponsors, coaches, fans, and team jerseys… just like their school basketball and soccer teams. Now, add to that list, scholarships and recruiting.

The RMU Eagles are undefeated in the North American Collegiate Championships (24-0). The game of choice is “League of Legends” and the team is under the authority of the university’s athletic director. They have been featured in NY-Times, The Chicago Tribune, and NPR. But what sets them apart from the school’s other student athletes is the popularity of their sport. E-sports / Gaming is a world-wide phenomenon that most of us simply overlook. Not anymore. While speaking with Blake, he learned he and his teammates were about to be interviewed for a feature in Time Magazine. When was the last time you recall a typical college student athlete receiving call from Time Magazine?

http://www.rmueagles.com/sport.php?seasonID=0&sportID=147

Bill Doyle with Blake Soberania at #IEG2015

According to Newzoo, there are an estimated 2.2 billion traditional sports fans (combined) worldwide while the gaming community reels in 1.7 billion fans annually with an estimated increase to 2.1 billion by 2017. That means gaming has nearly as many fans worldwide as all traditional sports, combined.

Traditional sports typically generate 57 percent of revenue from sponsorships and media selling rights and e-sports is anticipated to match that in just a few short years thanks to the growing interest in sponsorship.

Big name brands like Coca-Cola, Intel, Nissan, and Red Bull are the pioneer sponsors of this global gaming epidemic. By providing multimillion dollar sponsorships to the world’s top players, Coca-Cola is attracting a large, passionate online following. Coke Zero also recently partnered with Riot Games to create a series for amateur League of Legend gamers. “We have worked very closely and collaboratively with Riot Games to create a league that delivers true value to the fans and players of the sport, and that begins to build an infrastructure for e-sports that mirrors that of the more traditional sports,” said Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s global head of gaming.

And for some perspective, the 2013 League of Legends Challenge World Championships had over 32 million broadcast viewers, and sold out the 18,000 seat Staples Center in minutes. For 2014, held last fall in South Korea, met or exceeded those figures with even deeper engagement among fans.

http://www.ongamers.com/articles/league-of-legends-2014-world-championship-viewer-n/1100-2365/

Not to be missed, the top 10 You-Tube channels are all centered on gaming. to wit, the number one You-Tube celebrity isn’t Beyonce’, Beckham , or Swift it is an unassuming young man named Pewdiepie (https://www.youtube.com/user/PewDiePie) who talks, laughs and comments while playing the latest game releases – with over 35 million subscribers and over 8 billion (yes billion) video views! http://socialblade.com/youtube/user/pewdiepie

With monumental audiences, professional leagues, increased organizational support, multimillion dollar sponsorships, and now university scholarships and recruiting, one question remains – how long before the NCAA needs to step in?

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Cuba: Opportunity in the Midst of Challenges

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes as well as other aspects of the sports industry, could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

When it comes to sponsorship, Cuban athletes could benefit from the recent renewed ties with the US and the talk of lifting the US trade embargo.

Just three months ago, President Obama’s announcement that the US and Cuba plan to restore diplomatic relations has created a unique opportunity for US businesses, in particular event and sports sponsorship.  Major brands like AMEX, Nike, and Coca-Cola are waiting anxiously on the side lines to take advantage of opportunities as soon as the US trade embargo is lifted. This will not happen immediately or promise to be an easy transition, but offers prospects to change Cuba’s sporting industry.

All professional sports in Cuba were banned in 1962 and with the US trade embargo in place, US Companies have been forbidden from capitalizing on sponsoring all sporting events, Cuban athletes and facilities. Instead of advertising billboards surrounding the ballparks, portraits and slogans of Castro dominate the fields. No sodas or alcohol have been available at sporting events, and local food options have been scarce. Equipment is outdated and falling apart. Athletes keep a meager 20% of their salaries with the government pocketing 80%. Admission to games is free or for a nominal fee – Cubans come to simply enjoy the game.

“Sport is the victim of limitations of the embargo,” said Tomás Herrera Martínez, the director of international relations for Cuba’s sports ministry and a bronze medalist in basketball at the 1972 Munich Olympics. “Sport is one of the main rights of the people, but sometimes there have not been enough resources.”

For a country where sponsorship has been non-existent for the past 50 years, huge benefits exist for all those looking to get involved in Cuba’s sports and events market.  Infrastructure improvements and resource availability for hosting events will become possible. For example, if a financial service like AMEX sponsored the Cuban national baseball team, they could have the opportunity to bring banking basics to a large portion of the country through an in-person experiential form of marketing. IT companies could provide sponsorship and provide access to internet services, a foreign concept to most Cubans as less than 5% of the population has internet access.  Sporting events will help stimulate the economy and provide more jobs for Cubans. This could start as early as 2016 with a few Major League Baseball teams interested in an exhibition game during spring training.

Companies in the food and beverage industry will look to provide sponsorship and make their brands available at all sporting events too. Huge opportunities exist for sports merchandise as well as concessions at the stadiums. Coca-Cola, for example, is anxious to enter one of its last untouched markets. Like Cuba, Coke was banned in Myanmar for many years, and recently obtained its license to operate by creating value for the overall Myanmar economy.  It’s likely that Cuba’s new investors will look to Coca-Cola for guidance on entering a new market with due diligence and responsible business conduct.

Sponsorships could also provide important resources for the athletes, such as updated equipment, proper nutrition, and fair compensation. Just recently it was announced that Cuba’s Athletics Federation is now allowing athletes’ autonomy over sponsorships. The federation’s choice of brand for all athletes, regardless of their preference, has been German owned adidas until 2 years ago when track athletes started wearing Nike. This change has opened a door for US companies to sponsor Cuban athletes and increase their brand awareness in this emerging market. Nike is on the forefront of this change but Under Armor is looking for the next window of opportunity as these sponsorships spread to Cuba’s other most popular sports, baseball and boxing.

Despite doubts and obvious challenges with the Cuban government, economy, and infrastructure, this will be the new journey in sports and event sponsorship for US businesses.  Prospects will just have to be patient.

photo credit: Cuba Havana via photopin (license)
photo credit: Paralympics 2012 – 35 via photopin (license)

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Amid the Unrest in Brazil, Sponsors Are Encouraged to Share a Sense of Purpose

Protesters at the Confederations Cup made their opinions known this past June

Protesters at the Confederations Cup made their opinions known this past June

Millions of activists have been flooding the streets of Brazil in protest over the government’s decision to use public money to fund high profile athletic events such as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics. At a time where education and medical standards are in decline, the people of Brazil are showing they believe that the R$15 billion real ($6.5 billion US) spent on new stadiums, security and infrastructure would have been better spent building modern schools and hospitals.

Regardless, the leaders of Brazil continue to go ahead with the events citing the economic benefits the country will receive by hosting them. The World Cup alone is expected to bring in close to R$115 billion real ($49 billion US), along with thousands of jobs to the Brazilian economy by the end of 2014.  Even though they will benefit economically from the event, the majority of Brazilians will still be unable to afford the high price of a ticket to watch a World Cup game. While FIFA has made an effort to make tickets more affordable, factors such as high inflation and a stagnating economy will prevent most Brazilians from attending.

The lack of discretion displayed by Brazilian forces during these protests has had the media placing doubts on whether Brazil is ready to host an event as big as the Olympics. With almost all of the Confederation Cup matches witnessing some type of conflict between security forces and protesters, the world can only wait and see if this trend will continue into the World Cup and Olympics.

All this unrest leaves us wondering whether or not there is an opportunity for sponsors to step in and play hero to the Brazilian public. Although there are the obvious economic benefits involved in a sponsorship deal, there is also an intangible benefit for a sponsor who is perceived to have gone out of their way to establish a good will program for people in need. It will be interesting to see if the top sponsors such as Coca Cola, GE, Atos, Dow, Omega, Panasonic, P&G, Panasonic, Samsung, VISA or McDonalds will adjust their efforts. By no means will sponsors be expected to solve Brazil’s socio-economic struggles, but perhaps a plan targeted at aiding some of the 21% of Brazilians living below the poverty line would be a good place to start.

Social media will also play a huge role in the coming months in determining how sponsors react to the political unrest in Brazil. Protestors heavily utilized this resource to organize their efforts in June, and should continue to use it to build momentum for their cause going into the World Cup. The impact of social media has already been felt at events like this. As we mentioned in a previous post, the call from thousands of LGBT supporters to boycott the Sochi Games revealed the amount of pressure that can now be put on events and sponsors by ordinary people. With a heightened awareness of social issues caused by social media, how can sponsors prevent themselves from becoming associated with the controversy that always seems to surround competitions of this caliber?

While the issues found in Brazil are more structural than the social controversy caused by the Russian government, they should be considered just as significant. Sponsors will likely try to shift this focus on to the basic themes of these types of games: equality, respect and courage. But when you consider the financial gains to be made by these companies, at what point do sponsors need to consider assisting the people of a country that are arguably just as responsible for making these events happen in the first place? Conversely, can the people rightfully expect sponsors to invest even more money just because they have deemed their government ineffective? If so, this would open the door to many more issues that could lead to unreasonable expectations being placed on sponsors in the future.

Our solution: TOP sponsors need to be dynamic and consider the variations necessary relative to the host’s sociological and economic climate.  Some of these sponsors are already adept at this, and not only put up the majority of funding for prestigious events, they often times stick around after the event has concluded to address local issues. Take for example the impact McDonalds has had in South Africa after the 2010 World Cup. Their Coach the Coaches program helped develop youth soccer in South Africa by educating coaches and provided equipment for young players. They also helped address issues in infrastructure by donating a bus to the local public transportation center (public transportation remains a central issue in the Brazilian unrest as well). And while a single bus won’t change the world, it shows a level of respect and appreciation to the community in which they were a guest. Perhaps at this point, perception will come down to how effectively sponsors are able to communicate to the people that they are making their best efforts to help.

In Brazil, it could prove to be crucial for sponsors who can make these games more about joining forces with the people of Brazil, rather than the ROI they expect to gain at the people’s expense. By addressing key issues, sponsors may have the opportunity to highlight the sense of humanity in their efforts.

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LGBT Community Calls for Boycott of Olympic Sponsors

ImageRussian president, Vladimir Putin has led a series of harsh political actions against homosexuals over the past month, including passing one resolution that bans propaganda of all non-traditional sexual relations.  With Sochi set to host the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, worldwide protest of this reform continues to grow leaving many calling for the International Olympic Committee to demand retraction of Russia’s laws under the threat of boycott.

The IOC has promised that it would work to ensure members of the LGBT community, athletes and spectators alike, safe participation in the games without experiencing any discrimination.  In a recent statement, the IOC claims to have received “assurances from the highest level” of Russian government that the anti-gay propaganda law will not affect anyone participating in or attending the Games.  Despite these assurances, many remain skeptical.  Would you feel safe?

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin recently challenged NBC Universal, which paid $4 billion for exclusive rights of Olympic coverage, to fully disclose Russia’s human rights violations during its broadcasts.  NBC’s response left much to be desired, as they agreed to “provide coverage of Russia’s anti-gay laws IF the controversial measures surface as an issue during the upcoming Winter Olympics.”

Social issues of this magnitude are typically not on the minds of corporate sponsors when they are inking multi-million dollar contracts.  Their concern lies in putting together innovative and effective campaigns that will maximize their ROI.  With the Sochi Games fast approaching, however, opposition to Putin’s war on the gay community is gaining steam.

In addition to the rampant and growing calls on Facebook for boycotting anything Russian, the latest target on social media is aimed squarely at Olympic sponsors.  The controversy will challenge companies like AT&T, Coca-Cola, General Motors, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Samsung, VISA, and Procter & Gamble that have made huge commitments to sponsor all that is positive about the Olympic movement.  However, with the unanticipated turmoil in Russia, they run the risk of being associated with the event for all the wrong reasons.  The controversial nature of this issue leaves them vulnerable to offending the LGBT community to the point where they may lose the group as consumers for years to come.

Coca-Cola, sponsor of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay, has a longstanding history of support for LGBT events and causes.  Coke has repeatedly stood behind their statement that they do not condone intolerance of any kind.  Despite this, it has refused to weigh in on the controversy, claiming that it “does not take positions on political matters unrelated to our business.”

Olympic sponsors will continue to feel immense pressure to make a statement against Russia’s policies as the February Opening Ceremony nears.  The Olympics are almost always accompanied with some form of controversy.  This includes, most recently, protests against Beijing’s 2008 Olympic Summer Games due to China’s human rights track record.  However, given the recent passion surrounding LGBT equality and the proliferation of social media since 2008 the potential for an issue to directly impact official sponsors in this capacity is unprecedented.

Regardless of how this plays out, the bigger question for sponsors will remain.  What level of responsibility should sponsors of the Olympics bear?  Where do you draw the line between sports and politics?   Is there truly an effective reaction for sponsors to take that will satisfy anyone in situations like this?

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The End of the Stand-Off

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) finally reached a new revenue-sharing agreement that ends years of international  resentment harbored toward the USOC while it allows the USOC to lift its self-imposed freeze on bidding for future Games, a move it enacted after the 2016 Chicago bid fiasco.

For decades the USOC has received the biggest slice of the Olympic dollars paid by corporate sponsors and U.S. television networks, an arrangement the rest of the Olympic community has resented, and, in turn, one that has contributed to keeping the Olympics out of the U.S. in past years. The new deal, which will begin in 2020, mends this rocky relationship by reducing USOC shares of The Olympic Partner Program (TOP) sponsorship revenues and U.S. television rights. The USOC has also agreed to contribute to the IOC’s administrative costs.

Without a Games held in the U.S. since the 2002 Winter Games, the U.S. could be in the Olympic spotlight again in the near future. As the majority of TOP sponsors come from US corporations — Procter & Gamble, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Dow Chemical Company, and VISA, to name just a few — this should be considered good news for future olympic sponsorship campaigns.

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Olympic Food and Drink Sponsors: Some Not “Lovin’ It”

Should properties only accept sponsors whose brand images align exactly with their values? Last week, the London Assembly gave their answer: when it comes to the Olympics, absolutely.

At their most recent meeting, the governmental body called for a ban on Olympic “junk food” sponsors — McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken were called out specifically — citing concern that food and drink sponsors who produce high calorie or perceived unhealthy food and drink products undermine the values of the Olympic Games, and could contribute to the growing problem of obesity in the UK.

While the London Assembly might have their hearts in the right place, we think they need a super-sized serving of perspective.

First, let’s talk dollars and cents (or pounds and pence). According to a study conducted by official Olympic sponsor Visa, the UK will receive a huge economic stimulus from the Games worth an estimated £5.33 billion — a number that could have been significantly lower without the sponsorship dollars paid by McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Cadbury, and Heineken, who all contribute to the Olympic Committee’s ability to make the Games a success. The boost the Games and its sponsors contribute to the UK economy far outweigh the possibility that their ties to the Games might persuade Brits to reach for some fries or a soda. We’re surprised that a governmental organization doesn’t get that.

And frankly, we don’t buy that companies like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, who have received the most flack from critics, don’t exhibit values that align with many Olympic ideals. The notion that McDonald’s is nothing but a coronary-inducing beef patty and french fry slinger is an antiquated one. The global restaurant chain has made serious strides in offering up healthy options on their menu. More nutritious items — grilled chicken, entree salads, fruit sides, and low-fat dairy snacks — have been a big part of McDonald’s ability to succeed in the modern marketplace, and to some extent, may even have been inspired by McDonald’s early days of serving athletes at the Olympic  village. Those options will all be available for sale at the Games.

And Coca-Cola expects that over 75% of the drinks it sells at the Olympic Games will be water (Schweppes Abbey Well Water is a Coca-Cola brand and is the official water of the Games), juice, or sugar-free beverages. Again, the idea that Coca-Cola only produces syrupy fizzy soft drinks is misinformed.

The food service giant and beverage behemoth are also showing that they value the Olympic ideals of athleticism, unity, and excellence with Games-themed initiatives aimed at boosting physical activity. McDonald’s plans on giving away 9 million activity toys with their happy meals during the Olympic Games; Coca-Cola sponsored a “free swim” program in the UK in conjunction with their sponsorship.

And therein lies the real takeaway: McDonald’s and Coca-Cola know that an Olympic sponsorship is the perfect opportunity to drive home the fact that their brands can be part of an athletic lifestyle, and that as corporations they value the spirit of the Olympic games. Sponsorship isn’t always about brands selling the masses more burgers, sneakers, or car insurance.

Bottom line?: we think the London Assembly should leave sponsorship to the experts.

Oh, and London Assembly! It looks like Mayor Johnson agrees with us: Click here to watch a video clip of Boris Johnson inviting Americans to come to London to drink “fizzy drinks.” 

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