New Delhi: The ongoing battle between rivals Coca-Cola India Pvt. Ltd and PepsiCo Holdings India Ltd that had cooled down in recent years may resurface in an intensely aggressive avatar during the coming season of the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) Twenty20 cricket tournament.
The two companies are slugging it out to sign sponsorship deals with the eight teams that are part of the league.
Click here to watch video
Thus, days after PepsiCo dropped Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan as its brand endorser ending a decade-long association, rival Coca-Cola signed a sponsorship deal with the actor’s IPL team, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
A Coca-Cola spokesperson declined comment, but a senior KKR executive confirmed the deal. “Yes, we have finalized the deal a few days back,” said Joy Bhattacharya, chief executive of KKR. “The deal is for Sprite. The company (Coca-Cola) wants to push the brand during the IPL matches.”
PepsiCo ended its association with Khan last week as part of its strategy to focus on “younger” brand ambassadors. PepsiCo’s executive director (marketing) Punita Lal said: “We do not comment on business discussions.”
A fortnight back, Coca-Cola, edged out PepsiCo to sign another sponsorship deal with an IPL team, GMR Holdings Pvt. Ltd’s Delhi Daredevils.
Interestingly, Delhi Daredevils’ captain Virender Sehwag and one of KKR’s key players Ishant Sharma feature in Pepsi’s new cola commercial.
Last year, Kings XI Punjab, co-owned by Bollywood actor Preity Zinta, was the only team with which Coca-Cola had signed a sponsorship deal. A different person familiar with this development said the company is likely to renew the contract with the team. He didn’t want to be identified because the deal is yet to be signed.
Pepsi was one of the sponsors for Chennai-based India Cements Ltd’s team, Chennai Super Kings. The team is led by M.S. Dhoni. Rakesh Singh of India Cements, said the two companies are now working to roll-out co-branded beverage cans.
Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have had a history of brand associations with cricket and cricket stars.
According to at least three media buying executives, companies are signing sponsorship deals with IPL teams for anything between Rs4 crore and Rs10 crore.
The sponsorship spat between Coca-Cola and Pepsi took a decisive turn three months ago, with PepsiCo cancelling its five-year, on-ground (or in stadia) sponsorship contract signed with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), last year. BCCI owns IPL.
Coca-Cola had signed a so-called category exclusive on-air sponsorship deal with IPL’s broadcast partner SET (Sony Entertainment Television) MAX, the Hindi entertainment channel owned by broadcast network Multi Screen Media Pvt. Ltd (MMPL). The deal gave the company the right to air its advertisements in commercial breaks during the matches and the category exclusivity meant that its rivals were not to be allowed to advertise on television during the matches.
According to two IPL executives who did not want to be identified, PepsiCo had paid IPL around Rs50 crore for the five-year ground sponsorship deal, whereas Coca-Cola paid MMPL around Rs10 crore single-year for the on-air advertising deal.
PepsiCo took up the matter with IPL, which, in turn, discussed it with MMPL. After the broadcaster refused to cancel its deal with Coca-Cola, PepsiCo pulled out of its on-ground sponsorship deal.
A senior executive from a media buying agency said the broadcaster is yet again in talks with Coca-Cola for on-air sponsorship. “While there will be no category exclusivity this time, they are likely to sign up,” added this person, who did not want to be identified.
Video by Vijaya Rathore