Time to retire inauthentic product placement

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You can imagine how excited the representative from Coca-Cola felt just before Cristiano Ronaldo entered the room.

The world’s most famous athlete, with the largest number of followers on Instagram of any person alive (300 million and counting), was about to sit down in front of the media and give a press conference about his team’s performance at the Euros.

And there, sitting on the desk, were two perfectly positioned bottles of Coca-Cola, ready to bask in the reflected glory of a true superstar.

(I wonder whether there had initially been just one bottle, and if the representative had decided to throw caution to the wind and add another. Imagine how pleased the corporate bosses would be at the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta if Ronaldo were to be filmed and photographed with two bottles of the iconic beverage. It might not be job promotion worthy, but it would surely lead to a congratulatory email.)

Anyway, things did not go to plan for our friend from Coca-Cola.

Almost as soon as Ronaldo was seated he looked at two bottles with obvious disgust, and pushed them out of shot, the glass scraping unpleasantly along the table as he did so.

He then lifted up a clear bottle of his own, and said “beber água,” – Portuguese for “drink water” – before muttering “Coca-Cola” with obvious distain.

Reports that the Coca-Cola stock price plummeted as a direct result of this are, it seems, exaggerated. But there is no doubt that the public shunning of a product that has desperately sought association with celebrity is damaging.

Coca-Cola, in an era conscious of health and wellbeing, is perhaps just not cool enough anymore.

But Coca-Cola was not the only brand to suffer at the hands of footballers at the Euros.

France’s Paul Pogba, a practising Muslim, also removed a bottle of Heineken during his press conference.

“My view is that for a long time now having sponsors’ products on the table in front of athletes in press conferences looks outdated and inauthentic and it’s time to retire it,” says Tim Crow, a sports marketing consultant.

A version of this article was published as part of a weekly column by Guy Cookson on marketing, design, trends and strategy in the Lancaster Guardian, Blackpool Gazette, Lancashire Post and other titles. See our brand, web design and marketing recent projects.
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