Nov 29, 2008

Sports - Coca-Cola keen to sponsor regardless of recession

Coca-Cola is committed to sponsoring major soccer events such as the World Cup and European Championship despite financial pressures created by the credit crunch, its European chief said on Friday.

Dominique Reiniche, president of Coca-Cola's European operations, told Reuters in an interview that the drinks giant may trim sponsorships but would continue to invest in sports, notably soccer, at the top end and grassroots level.

"We don't see ourselves as sponsors but as partners. Olympics, World Cup, UEFA European Championships will continue," she said. "We will revise some budgets, of course -- when the income is lower you have to adapt your expenditure."

The next World Cup finals will be held in South Africa in 2010 with Ukraine and Poland due to co-host the next edition of the European Championship in 2012.

As the global financial crisis takes hold, however, major sports organisations have voiced concern over whether companies may rethink their investments in sport.

"Like everybody, we have to adapt and take into account the financial realities," Reiniche said.


"But what I can promise you is that we stay firm on our fundamentals and supporting the core sports like the Olympics and football is an essential part of what we do and we will continue no matter what happens."

Coca-Cola has already agreed to extend through to 2020 its membership of the International Olympic Committee's worldwide TOP programme, involving major corporations, which is the IOC's most lucrative sponsorship programme.

Reiniche said Coca-Cola will also continue its investment at the local level in sport in a bid to reduce the problem of obesity, which IOC president Jacques said last month would also be his priority if he is elected for a second term.

"It is not that we are co-starring with the World Cup or the Olympics or these mega events. We use these mega events to push the kids and teenagers to participate more in sport," she said.

"We use the big events to drive the grassroots sport and we will continue to drive it. We are partnering with football at every level, we are partnering with schools, we are partnering local teams, with regions."

The World Health Organisation classifies about 400 million people as obese, with 20 million of them under the age of five. The condition raises the risk of diabetes and heart problems.

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