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Atlanta Beverage Giant Returns After Seven-Year Absence

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CHICAGO ( -- After a seven-year absence, Coca-Cola is back on the red carpet as a sponsor of the 2006 Academy Awards on ABC.

Pepsi bows out
Since Coke dropped the Oscar telecast in 1998, archrival Pepsi-Cola North America had been

Coca-Cola returns as a sponsor of the annual telecast that's a close second to the Super Bowl in terms of viewership.

the event's major beverage sponsor. A Pepsi spokeswoman said the company decided not to renew the relationship next year because "the Academy Awards is not a distinct enough platform."

Coca-Cola, meanwhile, is planning seven TV commercials, led by ads for Diet Coke, for the telecast, which is a close second to the Super bowl in viewership.

"By refreshing moviegoers in theaters across the country, featuring celebrities in advertising, and participating in the Academy Awards telecast, we offer people multiple ways to enjoy the entertainment lifestyle,” the marketer said a statement issued by Katie Bayne, senior vice president for Coca-Cola Brands North America.

Event heavy 2006
The deal caps Coke’s media-event participation in 2006, which includes the Olympic Winter Games; soccer's World Cup; Fox's hit reality series American Idol; college sports; National Basketball Association; Nascar; and the National Hot Rod Association.

Pepsi wouldn’t comment on the timing of the decision to end it Oscars association, but a Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the company just got word today about the decision.

While still he king of award shows, the ceremony’s viewership has been declining in recent years. Ratings fell 5% in 2005 to 42.5 million viewers from the 43.5 million viewers in 2004. The all-time low was in 2003 when just 33 million tuned in, and the high was 1998 when 55.3 million viewers watched Titanic snag the gold statuette for Best Picture.

No qualms
But Coke has no qualms about show's continuing marketing power. “When the opportunity presented itself, we worked to realign with the telecast,” the company spokeswoman said.

The Atlanta-based marketer hopes to execute its advertising campaign with events and other efforts around the program. It will have one spot in the pre-show program and six spots in the main show, for a total of three and one-half minutes of ads.

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Claire Atkinson contributed to this report.

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