Coke boosts ESPN/ABC presence in $20 mil deal

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Coca-Cola Co. has inked a deal with ESPN/ABC Sports that grants the beverage giant a ramped-up presence on the network's properties.

The deal -- estimated at $20 million by industry observers -- provides Coca-Cola with an integrated media buy across ESPN and ABC Sports' media properties, which include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN Classic, ESPN the Magazine, and select ABC sports programming. The agreement will run through the end of 2001.

Although Coca-Cola has advertised with ABC and ESPN in the past, this agreement marks a "significantly increased contribution" from the marketer, said Edward Erhardt, president of sales and customer marketing for ESPN/ABC Sports.

The partnership also will extend beyond ESPN/ABC's traditional media outlets, as Coca-Cola and ESPN team up on non-traditional marketing opportunities, co-promoting their brands at high schools and movie theaters. In addition, the companies are working together to locate fresh opportunities in the new-media environment.

"This is a deal that works for both companies," Mr. Erhardt said.

Coca-Cola's PowerAde sports drink will take center stage in the multifaceted marketing partnership. ESPN's "SportsCenter" will feature "PowerAde Break" segments, while "watch and win" promotions will be created around the highly rated sports show.

"It's an important relationship for our PowerAde brand," said Chuck Fruit, VP-media and marketing assets at Coca-Cola. "The relationship between PowerAde and ESPN -- in particular "SportsCenter" -- will do a lot to enhance and underscore what PowerAde stands for to the consumer." The company's flagship Coca-Cola and Sprite brands also will be highlighted, Mr. Fruit said.

ESPN recently got a taste of what it's like to work with Coca-Cola, and vice versa. In January, Coca-Cola allowed ESPN personnel to set up shop at its World of Coke village for the network's Super Bowl coverage in Atlanta.

"It proved how well our two organizations could work together," Mr. Fruit said.

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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