Coca-Cola GB’s outgoing marketing director Bobby Brittain has admonished the drinks company’s Olympic sponsorship model, admitting that it is ‘broken’.
The company has been a sponsor of the sporting event since 1928, and at the beginning of the association used the Olympics as a platform to grow Coca-Cola on a global level. However, Brittain, who had been in the role for two years, told an audience at The Oystercatchers Club Panel last night (13 September) that in today’s world being a sponsor is a “competitive disadvantage”.
"The model just does not function partly because whether you are hosting the games or not, competitively the easiest job in the world is to be the Pepsi marketing director,” he said. “This is 2016 so Coke has got the European Championships from April to July then we've got the Olympics so we will do a ton of price promotion and we will ambush everything going in that period.
“It is utterly predictable the plan that Coca-Cola has in that period. So from that point of view it's a competitive disadvantage actually in many ways to be known as one of the top sponsors.”
Brittain revealed that internally at the drinks business Coca-Cola’s main motivation for sponsoring the Olympics is for its association with the torch relay, something that the brand is “unashamed” about pushing hard. However, he called the 2008 Beijing relay “traumatic” for those Coca-Cola employees involved, given that it travelled through 21 countries in the lead up to the Games, and was “hijacked” wherever it went.
“The lead up to the Beijing Olympics, the torch relay, which is probably the last time it will ever be a global event, was hijacked pretty much everywhere it went and it was a trauma, it was not a good place to be for anyone involved in it. And in fact from a celebration of community and human spirit it became an exercise in survival and many of the associates involved with it from the Coke company were traumatised by it. It was not a pleasant place to be and I would say that that was probably a low point in my experience.”
Brittain has now taken up the role of marketing and partnerships director at Godolphin horse racing stable.