Coca-Cola Celebrates 90 Years of Partnership with the Olympics

Four Olympic Athletes Become Part of Coca-Cola Family in PyeongChang Winter Games 2018

When the Olympic cauldron is lit to mark the start of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, not only will it begin the showcase of the world’s greatest athletes as they slalom, soar, and spin on a global stage. It also will mark an important milestone in The Coca-Cola Company’s continued support of the Olympic movement.

Since 1928, when an enterprising bottler had a thousand cases of Coca-Cola shipped to Amsterdam to sell at the Olympics, the brand has been a part of the Games. Since then, the company has become the longest continuous partner of the Olympics, with a presence at every single Summer and Winter game, a 90-year association that continues to thrive.

“As the Games begin and mark this monumental partnership between Coca-Cola and the Olympics, we continue to support the core values of the Olympic Movement—excellence, friendship, and respect—and we look forward to maintaining our role in helping to make the Olympics a memorable experience for athletes, fans and communities all around the world,” said Rodolfo Echeverria, Vice President of Global Creative, The Coca-Cola Company.

The brand has been affiliated with a host of decorated Olympians over the years, from world-class sprinter Jesse Owens (Berlin 1936), to rising boxer Cassius Clay (Rome 1960), to swimming prodigy Missy Franklin (Rio 2016).

For the PyeongChang Games, it has partnered with four world-class US competitors, including freestyle skier, Mac Bohonnon, figure skater, Nathan Chen, bobsledder, Elana Meyers Taylor, and Paralympic snowboarder, Amy Purdy. In addition, ice dancers, Alex and Maia Shibutani, and figure and speed skater, JR Celski, will represent Minute Maid and Core Power.

“Coca-Cola has respect for the Olympic rings, Olympic and Paralympic athletes, and respect for the Olympic sports, and in return, athletes respect Coca-Cola. I definitely feel like I am part of The Coca-Cola family,”  said Summer Sanders, a two-time gold medalist swimmer at the Barcelona 1992 Olympics.

The brand takes its support of the Olympic movement seriously, and that extends to the athletes who represent the company, as well. Since the Torino 2006 Olympic Winter Games, it has partnered with 90 US athletes participating in the upcoming Games, and the process is much more complex than just identifying potential gold medal winners.

The Olympic Marketing team at Coca-Cola monitors approximately 200 athletes and whittles them down using a variety of factors, including discussions with NBC, United States Olympic Committee (USOC), Olympic legends, coaches, media members, agents and an in-house Olympic questionnaire that helps determine the correct brand fit within the Company’s portfolio of products.

“We want our partnership to be genuine, real and authentic. It looks a lot easier than it is. There is a method to the madness, however. There is an art, a science, and specific information we have to magically pull it together,” said Dina Gerson, Director, Olympic Marketing, Coca-Cola North America.

This year’s “4-Pack” of athletes took part in a photo shoot in Park City that was used for in-store POS to help bring the creative aspects of the campaign to life, a wide-ranging plan that uses packaging, digital media and TV commercials.

For Gerson, bringing athletes and Coca-Cola together is a labour of love that pays off when the athletes officially join the family.

“It is the most exciting part of my job. It is very special and humbling to tell them they are part of our family. There are happy tears and lots of celebrating. We continually communicate with them and do what we can to make them feel special. It is a huge honour for us to bring them into our family and we do not take them for granted,” said Gerson.

Coca-Cola was a four-time global winner of the World Branding Awards, in the Beverages-Softdrinks category.