Coca-Cola and Chinese dairy firm Mengniu have signed a deal to become joint sponsors of the Olympic Games from 2021 to 2032, IOC chief Thomas Bach announced Monday.
Neither the International Olympic Committee nor the two companies involved disclosed the size of the deal but the agreement is the first ever joint partnership under the Olympic TOP programme, the highest level of Olympic sponsorship, Bach added.
"Having our longest-standing partner, Coca-Cola, an iconic American brand, together with a young Chinese company, Mengniu, joining hands under the roof of our Worldwide TOP Programme is a great example of the unifying power of the Olympic spirit," said Bach.
"This partnership will give another dimension to the promotion of the Olympic values around the world."
The agreement was unveiled in Lausanne ahead of the opening of the IOC session Monday in which the IOC will choose the host city for the 2026 Winter Olympics, with two candidates in the running, Milan/Cortina of Italy and Sweden's Stockholm/Are.
The Financial Times reported the deal was worth $3 billion, but did not offer details about the amounts contributed by each company.
A sources close to the deal told AFP it was the biggest IOC sponsorship ever with the oldest Olympics sponsor, Coca-Cola, which first backed the Games in 2028, and newcomer Mengniu.
James Quincey, Coca-Cola CEO, described the deal as 'substantial'.
The TOP programme of Olympic sponsors, an elite band of IOC partners, already includes one Chinese firm, multinational on-line and high-tech outlet Alibaba.
Mengniu, which was also a sponsor of the 2018 men's football World Cup in Russia, has been eyeing global expansion.
Jeffrey Lu, Mengniu CEO, said the IOC deal would be a "catalyst" to overseas growth.
"This is a vital step in our international strategy, and we are honoured to have the opportunity to build the positive reputation of Chinese food and beverage brands among consumers globally," he said in a statement.
- 'Misled' -
But the company's attempts to have its brand recognised outside China have already hit trouble. The firm that was embroiled in a damaging milk contamination scandal in China in 2008 has been under attack at home from Yili, its biggest domestic rival.
Yili has threatened to pull out its own sponsorship of Beijing winter Olympics in 2022 in response to the new deal.
In an open letter published on its official WeChat account Thursday Yili alleged that Mengniu's partnership was infringing upon its rights as the exclusive sponsor for dairy products at the winter Games.
In the letter, that has since been removed from Yili's official social media accounts, the company said Chinese consumers will be "misled" into believing Mengniu was also an "official dairy sponsor" if its ads appeared alongside that of Yili at the Beijing event.
Mengniu and Yili control nearly half of China's dairy market, according to Euromonitor.
Yili lashed out at Mengniu for attempting to "stage the biggest scandal in Olympic history" by listing itself as a beverage sponsor, and threatened to stop sponsoring the IOC for future events.
The IOC's Bach, asked to comment on the feud, said there were no grounds for complaint about the sponsorship arrangements.
"This agreement (with Mengniu) fully respects the rights of everybody," said Bach.
Mengniu is yet to respond to its rival's complaints.
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