As the second-biggest spender in the sponsorship industry, The Coca-Cola Co. has long been a leader in creating breakthrough sponsorship programs.

In a more recent twist, the beverage giant is mashing up traditional (FIFA World Cup, International Olympic Committee, etc.) and non-traditional partnerships (Misfit Shine, Endomondo, etc.) to reach new audiences, create content and drive brand growth.

In his presentation “Love and Collision” at IEG 2014, Emmanuel Seuge, The Coca-Cola Co.’s vice president of global alliances and ventures, discusses how the beverage giant provokes collisions to spur innovation and drive growth.  

Below are edited excerpts from his presentation.

In 2009 our chairman set a vision called Vision 2020. The vision can be summarized in a very simple way: to double the size of our business. What took us 127 years to accomplish we will double in 12 years. That objective cannot be done without disrupting business models and bringing innovation to the way we operate.

None of our innovations were done alone. Partnerships are in the DNA of our company. Partnerships have driven innovation and growth, whether its partnerships that drive reach with our bottling systems, partnerships with customers like McDonalds or partnerships with rights holders and content creators like the International Olympic Committee that bring meaning to what our brand stands for.

As we think about the future, we have tried to reinvent the way we think about partnerships.

There are three forms of partnerships. Global and scalable partnerships, value for value partnerships and venture partnerships.

Global and scalable partnerships include FIFA World Cup, the IOC and other partneships in the sports world. Value for value partnerships are in the entertainment industry—including gaming, music and film. Venture partnerships is a more recent activity that we started several years ago. 

Putting the three forms of partnerships within the same team provokes collision. Collision in the way we operate and the pace in which we operate. The International Olympic Committee and FIFA World Cup bring tremendous scale and reach, but at the same time a 10-person startup brings speed, nimbleness and sometimes disruption. That collision offers a huge opportunity.

FIFA is a good example. It took us more than three years to create the 2014 FIFA World Cup marketing campaign. The campaign was the largest that we ever built as a company—it was executed in 170 markets around the world.

On the other hand we have a partnership with Misfit Shine, an activity tracker. Misfit Shine is one of the startups that we have partnered with. It took four months to create a Coke-branded device after our first meeting with the company.  

One partnership gives us tremendous scale while the other partnership is more of a pilot market type of approach. But when you think about what we can learn from one another the opportunities are tremendous.

Collision Of Passions
I believe in the value of collision and the collision of passions. Consumers are sophisticated today. They’re not one dimensional. If you want to engage them you need to talk to them through different entry points.

When we talk about FIFA we don’t just talk about soccer. We use music as a way to talk about the FIFA World Cup. We did that in 2010 and we took it to the next level in 2014 by adding music to everything we did as it relates to FIFA.

Collision Of Passions

We used a song that was localized in 17 different languages to bring the campaign to life. Music was as important as the TV advertising, the visual identify and the experiential marketing programs that we created. Music was the layer that allowed us to connect to a broader audience.

When we refreshed our NBA partnership a couple of years ago we brought in music and street culture to create a collision of passion. We partnered with The Fader—a magazine with street credibility—to bring those worlds together.

We entered Formula 1 a little over a year ago with our burn energy drink. Burn is a very creative brand and a bit disruptive, so we didn’t want to enter F1 in a traditional way. We merged our partnership with DJ Avicii with the F1 world. We took Avicii to the Lotus Team factory and through that experience he created a track called Speed. We produced and have equity in the song.

Avicii brought us collision of thinking that we need in our organization.

Collision of Partnerships
Partnerships that work together can create some very interesting collisions.

Our entire digital plan for Powerade and the FIFA World Cup was managed through Endomondo, one of our startups. Endomondo is a Danish-based startup with about 25 employees. The Endomondo sports tracker app has 22 million weekly users. They’re the biggest startup you’ve never heard of.

We partnered with Endomondo to connect Powerade with everyday athletes—people who work out and practice their favorite sports every day. We had the most disruptive digital plan that we ever had for the Powerade brand.

Another example is our partnership with Music Dealers, a Chicago-based startup. Music Dealers is the first company we did a venture deal with. Music Dealers is the largest independent music catalogue in the world. Artists that don’t have a label but want exposure leverage Music Dealers as a platform.

Music Dealers worked on a song that served as the base for our Sochi Winter Olympics activation. The song was the number one song in Russia during the Olympics. The collisions that we provoke help us do things in different ways, bring fresh thinking to the table and help us engage consumers in a more relevant way.

Collision of Talent
The people and talent you work with is critical.

We decided we weren’t going with a design agency for our visual identify around the FIFA World Cup. We went directly to Speto, one of the most renowned street artists in Brazil. He wanted to use FIFA World Cup as a stage to portray his art and design. He created the logo that was on cans of our product leading up to the World Cup.

Collision of Talent

It wasn’t easy to work with Speto—he has his point of view and he brought his perspective. But the beauty of the cans could not have happened had we followed a more traditional process.

Collision of talent is healthy. We need to provoke that.

Collision Of Love
Without love collisions might not be as successful as they should be.

There is a quote from FIFA president Sepp Blatter that I love. “FIFA, the 101 year-old lady, has a love affair with The Coca-Cola Company.” He said that when we renewed our partnership a couple of years ago.

The balance between love and collision can provoke amazing growth. Love has to be trusting. It’s very important to remind ourselves why the FIFA relationship started. It started because FIFA wanted to develop the game of soccer around the world and they were looking for a company with international reach to help them do that.

How Coke Is Reinventing Marketing Partnerships To Drive Growth
How Coke Is Reinventing Marketing Partnerships To Drive Growth