PepsiCo Replaces Coca-Cola as NBA Sponsor

Mtn Dew Will Be Lead Brand in New Food And Beverage Deal

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PepsiCo is replacing Coca-Cola Co. as an official NBA sponsor, marking an end to the long-running association with the league of Coca-Cola's Sprite brand.

Sprite has been an NBA sponsor since 1994 and Coca-Cola Co. has been an NBA marketing partner since 1986, according to Coca-Cola.

PepsiCo will make Mountain Dew its lead brand in the sponsorship. But the deal covers several of the company's food and beverage brands, including Aquafina, Brisk, Ruffles and Doritos, according to a person familiar with the deal. The new sponsorship is expected to begin in July, after the current season concludes with the NBA Finals in June.

PepsiCo's Gatorade has an existing relationship with the NBA that is not affected by this deal.

Beverage Digest and Sports Business Journal first reported the news this morning. A person familiar with the deal confirmed the pact to Ad Age. A PepsiCo spokeswoman and an NBA spokeswoman each declined to comment.

A Coca-Cola Co. spokeswoman said in a statement that "we remain fans of the NBA and have shared remarkable experiences during our 28-year partnership, however we have made the decision not to renew our global contract at the end of the 2014/2015 season. The Coca-Cola Company has committed an incremental $1-billion toward its brands over the next three years, and with this commitment comes the need to focus on the most effective and efficient investments to maximize brand growth."

The NBA has scheduled a press conference for early this afternoon in New York. PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver are scheduled to attend.

The deal marks another significant move by PepsiCo into sports, giving the company sponsorship rights for the nation's big three pro leagues. Pepsi has been an NFL sponsor since 2002 and last year PepsiCo renewed its long-running pact with Major League Baseball. PepsiCo is also a sponsor of the National Hockey League.

But Coke is not exiting the sports arena entirely. The company on Monday announced a new multi-year sponsorship deal with Major League Soccer, replacing PepsiCo. "With this new partnership, we are committed to growing soccer here in the U.S. and using the power of our brands to engage and refresh fans at every level of the sport," Ivan Pollard, senior VP for investment, connections and assets for Coca-Cola North America, said in a statement.

A highlight of Sprite's association with the league has been its sponsorship of the slam dunk contest during All-Star Weekend. Reporting on a renewal of the deal in 1998 that both sides called an unofficial "100-year agreement," The Wall Street Journal referred to the sponsorship as the "most feel-good marketing partnerships in professional sports."

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