Soda Wars Pop Up In MLB As Coke Reclaims Official Status From Pepsi

Coca-Cola today unveiled a deal to become the official soft drink of MLB -- the rights to which it last held in 1996, when it was replaced by rival Pepsi.

Financial terms of the multi-year deal were not released.

The alliance was highlighted during an MLB media event in the New York Mets Citi Field, attended by Sandy Douglas, president for Coca-Cola North America, and Bob Bowman, president for MLB business and media.

The deal follows one that MLB signed last week naming Nathan’s Famous the league’s official hot dog.

“All we need is apple pie and we’re all set,” joked Bowman.

Although Douglas said it was too early to reveal marketing details, he did say the brand would have a major presence at MLB jewel events, beginning with the All-Star Game in Miami this July, as well as the playoffs and World Series.



He also said that digital and social media would be driving factors in the alliance to “entertain and refresh fans on a daily basis.”

“The way to reach a vast demographic of consumers is via social media,” said Douglas. “That wasn’t the case during our first alliance [with MLB], but the way brands reach consumers, and the way consumers and fans react [to marketing] is constantly changing.

“It’s innovative. It speaks to the total transformation across marketing toward digital and not just [in-stadium] or traditional media.”

Douglas said the company and its brands would “engage baseball fans through MLB LB Advanced Media digital platforms” such as, team Web sites, At Bat, official MLB social media accounts and ads on MLB Network and 

As as example, Douglas said Coke would use the Ballpark app to offer stadium check-in deals, ticket upgrades and concession promotions.

Bowman said that any marketing would include MLB players. “As we do with all of our nationals sponsors, we expect much of their campaign to be player-centric. The players are important to this alliance.”

This didn’t seem to be much of a problem for Coca-Cola.

“We’re excited to partner with MLB at a time when the league has so much positive momentum on the field and such a large group of exciting players,” said Douglas.

Coca-Cola also has an official alliance with MLS.

Among Coca-Cola’s 18 MLB teams are the Atlanta Braves, Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.

PepsiCo said it has  official deals with 11 MLB teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays, 

The Oakland A’s have a deal with Zevia soda.

Pepsi has official deals with the NBA, NHL and NFL, including sponsorship for the Halftime Show at the Super Bowl.

PepsiCo’s Gatorade and Aquafina remain the official energy drink and water of MLB under separate deals.

The All-Star Game in Miami will take some branding sleight of hand as Coke is aligned with MLB but the Marlins are aligned with Pepsi. “That is not a problem,” said an MLB spokesperson. “Unless a company not officially affiliated with MLB has naming rights to a stadium we are able to cover and replace signage or products (of rival brands) to feature our partners.”

Coca-Cola’s ties with baseball date back to the early 1900s, including some of the first ads to feature baseball players. Hall of Famer Ty Cobb not only appeared in ads but had stock in the company.

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