Lance, Dasani together through 2006

Updated: July 19, 2004, 8:16 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

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 American unit.

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 chemical.

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.

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