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Coke - the real thing?

THERE has been an awful lot of talk in Formula 1 circles in recent months about the possible involvement of American drinks company Coca-Cola in Grand Prix racing. The stories came about as a result of a number of calculated leaks to magazines and newspapers, probably from the same agency which says it is looking after Coca-Cola's interests in motor racing.

There is no evidence that there are any serious talks going on between the Coca-Cola Corporation and any Formula 1 organizations. Several teams said they have had talks with people who represent one of Coca-Cola bottlers in Eastern Europe but they say that the talks should not be taken too seriously.

Coca-Cola is an unusual company in that it does have huge centralized marketing budgets but has become the world's leading brand name thanks to years of constant exposure at local level. This decentralized system which involves many independent bottling companies or joint-venture businesses around the world means that while the firm has the best-known brand name in the world, the main Coca-Cola company does not have gigantic marketing budgets - and what it does have tends to be spent on global events such as the Olympic Games.

But our sources in Formula 1 say that there is no direct involvement in the talks from the main Coca-Cola company in Atlanta, Georgia, and that the rumors should not be taken too seriously as it seems to be that one Coca-Cola bottling company wanted to be involved in Formula 1. This firm backed Justin Wilson's Nordic Racing entry in Formula 3000 last year and we hear that this deal will continue next year for Czech racer Tomas Enge, who will be joining Nordic Racing from the now-defunct McLaren Junior Team.

The interesting thing in all this is that Formula 1 is actually not a bad idea for the firm. It recently came under new management with new ideas and it needs to adopt new strategies to counter growing competition in the global soft-drink market from non-carbonated drinks such as iced tea, sports drinks and high-energy concoctions such as Red Bull. These are selling well amongst the younger generations. In order to meet the challenge Coca-Cola has tried to launch its own ready-to-drink iced teas and sports drinks.

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