ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola Co., the world's largest soft drink company, announced Monday that it had renewed its marketing partnership with American cycling hero Lance Armstrong.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said Armstrong, who is currently
vying for a record sixth Tour de France victory, will appear in
ads and other promotions for the company's Dasani bottled water
product through 2006.
ESPN.com's Darren Rovell reported earlier this month that although Armstrong's current deal with Coca-Cola wasn't up until September, an extension was imminent.
Armstrong's market appeal remains strong even though he could retire after next season. The Discovery Channel recently agreed to a three-year, $30 million sponsorship deal with his cycling team.
Armstrong, who survived testicular cancer in 1996, has been
affiliated with Coca-Cola since 2000. The 32-year-old Texan is
currently second in the Tour de France, 22 seconds behind
unheralded Frenchman Thomas Voeckler.
"Lance is an incredible inspiration for his spirit and
confidence on and off the bike, which is a perfect fit with the
active, optimistic personality of the Dasani brand," said
Javier Benito, chief marketing officer of Coca-Cola's North
The extended partnership with Armstrong comes at a crucial
time for Coca-Cola, which is battling archrival PepsiCo. for control of the $9 billion bottled water market in North America.
PepsiCo's Aquafina is the top-selling water brand in the
United States, while Dasani ranks second.
The Dasani brand, however, ran into problems earlier this
year in Britain when it was discovered that some samples
contained excess levels of bromate, a potentially harmful
Coca-Cola voluntarily pulled some 500,000 bottles from the
British market and later scuttled plans to introduce Dasani in
other parts of Europe.
Shares of Coca-Cola fell 25 cents to $50.33 in afternoon
trading on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange. PepsiCo was
down 9 cents at $52.21 on the NYSE.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.