Coca-Cola at war over US decision to fire Wayne Rooney

Coke is one of errant England football star Wayne Rooney’s main sponsors, contributing about £2.5m to the kid from Toxteth’s annual earnings.

The team in Atlanta are less than amused at his reported extra-marital antics involving two hookers in Manchester (at the last count) while wife Coleen, herself a celebrity these days, was preparing to give birth to Rooney offspring Kai (a boy). So poor Wayne is due to be dumped next week.

Coke UK is apparently putting up a manful fight on behalf of Wayne (with their fingers, toes and anything else that comes to hand crossed in the event of further disasters) saying that Coke customers in the UK and Europe don’t actually mind that much. And Rooney is integral to their efforts to establish Coke Zero as the young hooligans’ soft drink of choice.

But Coke is not the only company to to have doubts, Tiger beer is also thinking hard about its investment in Rooney who it has used recently in a much praised World Cup campaign by Iris Singapore.

Other supporters Nike and EA video games say they are standing by Rooney, although they could change their minds of course.

In the end Coke Atlanta will win. You can imagine the transatlantic dialogue:

Coke Atlanta: “What’s with this guy Rooney? Why does he sleep with hookers? Soccer moms don’t like it, that’s what their husbands do.

Coke UK: “Well Elmore, he’s a bit of a lad and, er, the target market don’t mind that much.

Coke Atlanta: “Whaddaya mean the kids don’t mind? The guy’s a loser. You saw him in that Nike ad. He was living in a trailer park.

Coke UK: “That was a joke Elmore.

Coke Atlanta: “Don’t Elmore me, the guy’s unreal. Who sleeps with cheap hookers when we’re paying them five million bucks a year?

Coke UK: “Do you remember the last sales conference sir?

Coke Atlanta: “What goes on tour stays on tour. Anyway they weren’t cheap. Get rid of him and, no, we’re not paying him off.

Coke UK: “Yes sir.”

Does Wayne deserve all this? Well clearly not in the sense that he’s still a very young man (24) and clearly not very learned in the ways of the world despite his earnings and celebrity.

On the other hand he is being a paid as some form of role model (however daft that may be) and his relationship with the formidable Coleen is part of that (or was).

Marketers continually become involved with sports stars, and other celebrities like musicians, while parking what common sense they possess on the touchline.

The overwhelming odds are that they’ll end up with a Rooney rather than a Michael Owen or Jamie Redknapp, estimable young men no doubt but far more likely to appeal to thirty somethings than the audience Rooney is intended to attract.

So, logically, Coke shouldn’t drop Rooney. But they probably will.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.