Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands, not only internationally, but also in sport. The soft drink company has secured a reputation as one of the biggest names in sport sponsorship, dating back almost 100 years.
Coca-Cola started their journey into sport sponsorship in 1928 with the biggest sporting event in the world: the Olympics. Having sponsored each of the games since then, Coca-Cola is the longest continuous sponsor of the Olympic movement. This most notably includes the 2012 London Olympics, suggested by some to be equivalent to $100 million, and considered to be sport’s biggest sponsorship deal ever. Coca-Cola also has sponsorship deals with the NBA, MLB, NCAA, and NASCAR, among others.
It only makes sense that one of sport’s biggest sponsors crossed paths with the founding architect of athlete marketing, Mark McCormack. We can see from the McCormack Archives that correspondence between the two parties goes as far as 1960; the same year McCormack signed Arnold Palmer and Gary Player as clients, and just a year before signing Jack Nicklaus.
McCormack saw the potential of signing his “Big 3” clients to contracts with Coca-Cola, and as we can see from the attached documents, these deals were certainly mutually beneficial. The details of the contracts, shown via the contract of Palmer, include creation and use of promotional materials, attendance at social functions, and perhaps the most enjoyable clause: making Coca-Cola products “a natural and normal part of your everyday life.” Also quaint by today’s standards was the per year endorsement fee: $15,000, roughly equivalent to $125,000 today.
Preceding Palmer’s 1967 contract, the Archives provide an IMG memorandum to McCormack, detailing the initial contractual obligations of Nicklaus, Player, and Palmer. We can also see Coca-Cola’s efforts to maximize on said endorsement deals through the proposed letter, which suggests McCormack write to tournament officials about the absence of Coke products, and the possible future benefits of including such products in the future.
McCormack maintained a strong relationship with the Coca-Cola Company for the years to come and extended the resulting business to various new clients.