News broke in September that Coca-Cola was replacing EDF as the sponsor of London tourist attraction The London Eye, with the soft drinks giant becoming the third corporation to buy naming rights, after British Airways became the first when the Eye officially opened to the public in 2000.
Of those members of the public that were quizzed, not all were as clued up as Marketing’s readership undoubtedly is. On being asked why the London Eye is lit up in red, one person said, "I don’t know", another posited, "So you can see it at night?" and a man even suggested, "It’s angry".
Upon being told that Coke was sponsoring the Eye, one woman appeared to reveal that she had been affected by Coke Life’s multimillion-pound advertising push to the extent that she thought Coke itself had changed its age-old corporate identity. "Isn’t Coke green at the minute?" she asked.
But one man hit the nail on the head. "It’s just advertising, innit," he said. "So Coke’s a big company and it got in there and paid the money."
But beyond confusing a few people on the street, what is in it for Coke?
According to sponsorship and branding specialist Nigel Currie, "London is such an important capital city and such a focal point for the world, that it’s important to have a major presence in it".
"It used to be the case that you would have to have an ad in Piccadilly Circus which was the equivalent of Times Square in New York, but that seems to have faded," he says.
"There are now so many more buildings and landmarks and the Eye is one of most noticeable. And you can do different things with it - not least to colour it using lighting."
Currie suggests that aside from having naming rights, the sponsorship allows the brand to capitalise on key events in the England capital, such as royal occasions, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the latter when the Eye forms the epicentre of London’s stroke-of-midnight firework extravaganza.
It's a point echoed by Jon Woods, Coca-Cola UK's general manager, who said on announcing the sponsorship: "We have a rich history in London and this new sponsorship will help us play an even greater part in future moments of happiness and celebration in the capital."
Of course, some types of brand are more suited to sponsoring a giant big-wheel than others. British Airways had obvious synergies with an attraction that literally lifts passengers high into the air, and even called rides on the wheel 'flights'; while EDF "had to work much harder", Currie reckons.
Coke's sponsorship is more resonant, he insists. "It’s more suited to Coke, as an FMCG-type brand that has fingers in every place in the world. The international element is particularly important."
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