History of Coca-Cola sponsorship of golf


Sports federations have always welcomed high-profile corporate sponsors, who can enhance coverage, sponsor events and stimulate wider interest and attendances. But when it comes to the sport of golf, nothing quite gets the funding of $165 million over five years from drinks giant Coca-Cola, news which was announced on Sunday.

While executives at the official announcement in Phoenix were quick to laud the fact that it was the first time a major sponsor had made a five-year commitment to the sport, in the event the sponsors’ involvement is expected to pay off over a longer time horizon. The aid of continued funding will be crucial.

Golf has seen its television audience shrinking and its rates of attendees slip over the past decade, but the figure of 16 million at the Ryder Cup in 2016 was already a boost to the World Golf Championships.

These men are:

Keith Pelley, president of Sportscorp Ltd, who is currently the chairman of the Sport and Leisure Association in Vancouver.

John Skipper, president of Turner Sports, who earlier this year was named as the sole non-executive director of the International Tennis Federation.

Avery Brundage, an executive at Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Jack Nicklaus, founder of the PGA Tour.

Barend Bielke, who is set to join the PGA Tour board of directors next month, as the league’s representative on the European Tour’s ruling council.

The Coca-Cola company, which was co-founded by a German boy, Cornelius Ochs, has previously funded and taken its sponsorship from Coca-Cola Classic to Coca-Cola Zero Sugar, but this will be the most wide-ranging deal the beverage firm has offered.

Two years ago, with the sport still trying to find its way after the global financial crisis, there was uproar when a rival was awarded the Ryder Cup golf tournament for 2020. At that time, former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem — who, though he declined to comment on this year’s decision, played a key role in Coca-Cola’s relationship with the PGA Tour — voiced dismay about the decision, pointing out that other corporate sponsors, from IBM to Kraft, had delivered plenty of money to golf clubs and events and that this was “not the time to blow one off the top”.

Despite its strong association with Coca-Cola, the PGA Tour had lost Pepsi to other competitors and CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, had withdrawn sponsorship of the Wyndham Championship, the second-tier event that is run on its own. The PGA Tour had not established any sustained links with Coca-Cola, although it had, previously, signed an agreement that could lead to a deal.

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