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Coke Takes Over From Pepsi as MLB Sponsor

Coca-Cola is getting back in the big leagues. The soda giant is taking over from PepsiCo as the official soft drink sponsor for Major League Baseball, just in time for Opening Day next week.

PepsiCo had kept a stranglehold on sponsorships for the Big Four major pro leagues in the U.S. since taking over from Coke as National Basketball Association sponsor in 2015. PepsiCo still holds sponsorship deals with the National Football League and National Hockey League. Coke has the Major League Soccer sponsorship.

The MLB deal was first reported today by Sports Business Journal and confirmed to Ad Age by a Coca-Cola spokeswoman. She described it as a multi-year deal but did not disclose other terms. An MLB spokesman declined to comment.

PepsiCo had been the MLB sponsor since 1997, when it took over from Coke in a deal that was originally reported as being worth an estimated $50 million over five years.

Coke of late has held the most individual MLB team deals. But as Sports Business Journal noted, “without league rights, Pepsi had access to MLB’s digital and social media channels, even as they became increasingly important.”

Coke currently has sponsorship pacts with 18 teams, including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Mets (which was announced in late 2015), Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and its hometown Atlanta Braves. PepsiCo’s has deals with 11 teams, including the New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs.

Pepsi Cola Company launches limited-edition Aquafina bottles.
Pepsi Cola Company launches limited-edition Aquafina bottles. Credit: PepsiCo

A PepsiCo spokeswoman reiterated the following statement that was issued in early March when news leaked that Pepsi was not returning as league-wide sponsor: “As we evaluate our sponsorship needs, we have decided to shift our focus to the local level and will continue to excite fans across the country through team and player partnerships.” The company added that its Gatorade brand “continues to be the official sports fuel partner of MLB.”

PepsiCo on Friday announced it would launch team-branded Pepsi cans across 11 baseball teams beginning this week. The marketer also stated that its Aquafina water brand would debut limited-edition Cubs-branded bottles, featuring the Cubs World Champions logo.

In an email, a PepsiCo spokeswoman stated that Pepsi “is near final terms” with MLB Advanced Media, which “allows us to reach baseball fans on their highest used platforms — across mobile and digital properties.” MLB Advanced Media is jointly owned by the 30 MLB teams. The group serves as the interactive media and internet company of MLB, with assets including the MLB’s At Bat app. Disney last year acquired a 33% stake in BAMtech, a video-streaming unit that was spun off from MLB Advanced Media.

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