The Coca-Cola Football Story

35 years ago, West Nally brokered a partnership between FIFA and The Coca-Cola Company. That company’s contribution to world soccer is without equal. It has made soccer into the universal game.

The Coca-Cola Company’s support of development projects has been the single most important factor in helping to put all nations, rich and poor, on a more equal competitive footing in international competitions.

This agreement, the first true ‘global sponsorship’, linked FIFA and The Company in a series of far-sighted and ambitious soccer programs designed to support the expansion of the “universal game”. It was originally set in motion by the appointment of Dr Joao Havelange as President of FIFA at the 1974 FIFA Congress. His plans for a world football development project, aimed specifically at improving standards of football in under-developed soccer countries and building the youth sector of the sport, found a natural partner in The Coca-Cola Company.

Simultaneous press conferences in London and New York heralded the $10 million investment in soccer. The biggest ever sponsorship at that time.

The World Development programme (later re-named The FIFA/Coca-Cola International Academy) as the flag-ship of Coca-Cola’s soccer involvement – the expression of corporate citizenship which pre-empts and disarms any possible charge of exploiting soccer without ‘putting back’ something of real value into the game.

Other elements of the programme include the World Youth Championship, first staged in Tunisia in 1977 and a much loved range of youth activities including Go for Goal instruction cards, Super Skills Awards and the Kick Me soccer competition.

1978 Argentina World Cup

The Coca-Cola Company’s involvement in the 1978 World Cup is one of the advertising and marketing success stories of the ‘seventies. It also established the concept of exclusivity and the structure around which the subsequent InterSoccer 4 program was developed.

It was a deal bartered by Patrick Nally out of considerable necessity. He had already established that all the World Cup marketing rights had been passed to Argentina and needed to ensure a strong role for Coca-Cola. Visiting Argentina in 1977, Nally was able to provide the necessary funding through Coca-Cola to secure back for FIFA the “clean marketing rights” that became his trademark. 14 months after the coup, the 1978 World Cup was an outstanding credit to the new government, Coca-Cola and West Nally.

It is no exaggeration to say that never, in the history of sponsorship, has one company obtained so much exposure and promotional benefits from a single sporting involvement, at such reasonable cost.

By underwriting the stadium advertising contract with FIFA, the Company was able to retain substantial stadium advertising for its own use (six boards in every match), as well as obtaining the stadia franchise for the sale of soft drinks, guaranteed television exposure for the Soccer Skills competition, world-wide promotional use of the mascot and symbol, local advertising opportunities and ‘soft drinks’ product exclusivity at zero cost.

West Nally handled the marketing of the remaining Argentina 78 rights, including the stadium signage in a consistent formula across all matches. This development marked a turning point in sports marketing – it was the first co-ordinated package.

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