Euros Championship ‘Bottlegate’ Spreads From Coca-Cola to Heineken

Beer delivery trucks outside the Heineken brewery in Den Bosch, Netherlands, on Feb. 9, 2021. (Photographer: Peter Boer/Bloomberg)

Euros Championship ‘Bottlegate’ Spreads From Coca-Cola to Heineken

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Two of the world’s best-known beverage brands have felt the viral ripples caused by simple gestures from stars of the world’s most popular sport.

Manchester United Plc’s Paul Pogba on Tuesday moved a bottle of non-alcoholic Heineken NV beer out of sight when giving a press conference at the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament, where he’s representing France. The teetotal midfielder appeared to be mirroring the actions of Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo, who on Monday swapped a bottle of Coca-Cola for water, in a clip that was widely shared on social media.

Pogba’s move came just hours after Heineken had quipped about Ronaldo’s preference for “agua” on Twitter.

The episode brings into question the suitability of certain brands as sponsors of professional sports, while highlighting the growing influence of individual sportsmen and women whose actions reach huge audiences via social media.

“Ronaldo has 299 million followers on Instagram alone, and a snub can easily move share prices,” Keith Temperton, a trader at Forte Securities, said by email. “Still, the impact of such things tends to be brief.”

Coke shares fell roughly in line with the S&P 500 index following Ronaldo’s press conference, and traded 0.7% lower at 11:34 a.m. in New York Wednesday. Heineken’s shares shrugged off the snub, closing 1.4% higher in Amsterdam.

“Aligning brands with celebrities is a tried and tested way of recruiting new consumers, but it comes with added risk,” Charlie Higgs, an analyst at Redburn, said in an email. “This risk is persistent and larger now than ever before thanks to the prevalence of social media.”

Euros Championship ‘Bottlegate’ Spreads From Coca-Cola to Heineken

“Everyone is entitled to their drink preferences,” a UEFA spokesperson said via email, adding that players at press conferences are offered water, alongside Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. “We fully respect everyone’s decision when it comes to their beverage of choice,” a Heineken spokesman said. Coca-Cola could not immediately be reached for comment.

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