London Eye activation could ward off Coca-Cola criticism

Matthew Pryke, expert in intellectual property law at Hamlins LLP, has told Event that Coca-Cola should strongly invest in activating its sponsorship of the London Eye to combat public criticism of the deal.

Coca-Cola begins tenure as London Eye sponsor
Coca-Cola begins tenure as London Eye sponsor

It comes as the Merlin Entertainments-owned attraction reopened after its annual maintenance with new branding from the soft drinks giant. However health charities such as Children’s Food Campaign expressed anger that the drink, which is infamous for its sugary content, has been chosen to sponsor the landmark.  

Pryke told Event: "To realise the value of the sponsorship requires significant and focused investment in activation. This can involve managing criticisms and continuing to maintain a communication strategy. Often this will be evolutionary with the PR message focusing on the positive values of the brand to balance any negative views."

He also commented that it is not uncommon for iconic sponsorship arrangements, like Coca-Cola's with the London Eye, to receive public criticism. "This scrutiny, while a risk, is often the very same reason the brand decided to invest in the sponsorship opportunity: namely the fantastic presence, awareness and activation opportunities offered to its target market," he said. 

"Coca-Cola will inevitably have some concern about the criticism its brand has received. However, looking from the outside, much of this criticism has only helped to increase the significant awareness of this recently launched sponsorship arrangement," Pryke added.

The deal, which includes full naming rights of the attraction, was first announced in September. Nick Varney, Merlin Entertainments’ chief executive, said at the time: "The London Eye is Merlin’s premier global attraction and increasingly a key visual icon of modern London, particularly since the Olympics. We are therefore delighted and proud to be partnering with an organisation and brand of the quality and reputation of Coca-Cola.   

"We feel we will be linking the London Eye name with an organisation, which not only reflects the same values as our own, spreading happiness around the world, but which also brings something new and exciting to the party. Most of all, we very much look forward to working together to create great value experiences and events for our customers."

Coca-Cola lit the London Eye red last weekend (17 January) to mark its sponsorship of the landmark, which has seen each pod branded with Coca-Cola’s distinctive insignia and staff uniform feature the brand’s logo. Health campaigners protested outside by handing out 500 toothbrushes to highlight the tooth decay that a high-sugar diet can cause for children.

Coca-Cola takes over the sponsorship from energy brand EDF. British Airways was the initial sponsor of the London Eye when it opened in 2000.

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