Coke still a ‘fundamental sponsor’ of the Olympics – Timo Lumme

US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola is still a “fundamental sponsor” of the Olympics, despite the changing nature of Olympic marketing, according to an IOC executive.

Speaking at the SportBusiness Decision Makers Summit in London, Timo Lumme, managing director of television and marketing services at the IOC, said Olympic marketing is changing rapidly, but its “cornerstone tenets” still remain.

Lumme pointed to Coca-Cola’s joint TOP partnership in the beverage category with state-owned Chinese dairy brand Mengniu – from 2021 to 2032 – as the latest example of change-with-continuity in Olympic marketing.

“People say Coca-Cola has been supplanted by Apple and the tech giants, but if you look at consumer recognition, the average consumer touches the Coke brand in some way six times a day,” said Lumme.

The two brands complement each other in different ways, said Lumme.

Coca-Cola saw that Mengniu could help it push deeper into China and outwards into additional product categories, in line with Coca-Cola’s aim to become a “more complete beverage company.”

And while Coca-Cola is looking inwards in China, Mengniu is looking outwards to the rest of the world.

“This is part and parcel of China’s state enterprise strategy,” said Lumme, “of wanting Chinese brands to become global players.”

He said the joint partnership, the first in IOC history in a single category, will pose technical and conceptual issues both for the IOC and the two partners.

“Although they work in a partnership, there is no formal venture as yet, and they can dip in and out of each other’s product categories as they wish,” said Lumme.

“The important thing, from our perspective, is that we are responding to the marketplace. We see the future as equity-based partnerships on a global platform.”