The Wimbledon effect: are soft drink and sports partnerships coming to an end?

With the Premier League comes a pint of Budweiser, with Formula 1 comes a tin of Red Bull, and until a couple of weeks ago Wimbledon was washed down with a glass of Robinson’s squash.

As Wimbledon and Robinsons go public with their split – is the age of soft drink and sports partnerships coming to an end?

Perhaps the image of an athlete holding a sugar-packed beverage has grown tired in its contradictory message. Most infamously, Ronaldo was captured pushing aside two Coca-Cola bottles during the Euro conferences last year, which saw the soft drink giant’s market value plummet by $4 billion.

Or maybe the shifting political dynamics of looming HFSS legislation and the cost of living crisis has shaped how sports corporations select their partners in the food and drink industry.

Grocery Gazette outlines the key sport collaborations in the sector to see which tie-up trends are forming in 2022.

Wimbledon and Robinsons

Last Friday, Britvic-owned Robinsons and Wimbledon ended their 86 year-long partnership,  marking the end of one of the longest-running partnerships in the sport dating back to 1935.

Despite speculation that Britvic wanted to promote its other products such as Gatorade, Pepsi Max, Rockstar Energy, J20 and Fruit Shoot – the tennis club has appeared opposed to sugary soft drink associations.

Although Robinsons launched its low-caloric variant in its ready-to-drink format last year, the tennis event has been historically tethered to the original barley, lemon juice and sugar blend.

“Robinsons is no longer sponsoring Wimbledon fortnight and this year will be celebrating the whole of summer with The Big Fruit Hunt – an interactive opportunity to find virtual fruit and win real prizes,” Britvic tweeted.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) stated: “After more than 80 years, we can confirm that the partnership between the AELTC and Robinsons has come to an end. We are tremendously proud of the historic association with Robinsons over so many years, and thank them for the wider role they have played in supporting Wimbledon and tennis across the UK.”

While the corporate break-up appears amicable – neither parties have revealed their reasoning for severing ties, although a spokesperson for Britvic confirmed to Grocery Gazette thatRobinsons and the AELTC will not be renewing their Wimbledon partnership this year”.

“We are tremendously proud to have been such a prominent partner to this historic tournament for so many years and the wider role we have played in boosting engagement with the game of tennis in the UK”, they said.

Moving forwards, Britvic will be broadening its summertime reach to beyond the Wimbledon fortnight, including the Robinsons Big Fruit Hunt, a new campaign that will run throughout the whole summer.

“As a leader in healthier soft drinks, well over 90% of our brands in the UK are either no or low sugar drinks,” the spokesperson added.

“Globally, our portfolio contains an average of 25 calories per 250ml serve, with drinks in our GB market being much lower than this. We have taken bold steps to help consumers make healthier choices, and our responsible marketing code means, where available, we will always promote low or no sugar options in our advertising.”

READ MORE: Robinsons and Wimbledon end 86 year partnership

Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Lucozade Sport

Soft drink brand Lucozade Sport has been revealed as Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games’, which will see them provide thousands of athletes with isotonic drinks throughout the multi-sport event.

Lucozade is expected to provide over 102,000 litres of its sports drink to competitors from 28 July and 8 August.

Both parties share an environmental agenda as Lucozade has been working closely with Birmingham 2022’s waste management and recycling providers, Biffa, with the aim of making this the first Commonwealth Games with a carbon-neutral legacy.

Every Lucozade Sport bottle distributed at the event will be made from recycled plastic, excluding the cap and label.

“The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are set to be action-packed with some of the greatest athletes from across the world performing at their peak,” Lucozade head of partnerships Matt Riches said.

“We can’t wait to be alongside them on the field of play.”

While the original Lucozade Sport doesn’t comply with HFSS restrictions, the company launched a lower caloric variant named Lucozade Alert which now offers the original flavour since January 2022.

READ MORE: Lucozade Sport announced as official drink for Birmingham Commonwealth Games

GB Olympic team and Old El Paso food kit

Meal kit company Old El Paso partnered with Team GB in a bid to address food insecurity as cost of living pressures continue to rise.

While Wimbledon has reportedly refocused on non-HFSS associated brands and Birmingham Commonwealth Games has geared towards drinks with sustainable initiatives – Team GB has hoped forge a charitable collaboration amid squeezed household budgets.

The ‘#FajitaFriYayChallenge’ comes as Old El Paso is announced the official meal kit of Team GB ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

The campaign comes after charity network Fareshare revealed 90% of charities and community groups in the UK that rely on the organisation have had their services affected in some way by rising costs.

The partnership, which has already donated 10,000 fajita meal kits to FareShare, now invites the nation to take part in the campaign by sharing their best ‘Fajita FriYAY’ moment on social media.

“Bringing the nation together for the journey is really important and kicking off the partnership with this campaign represents a brilliant opportunity to reach families around the UK as well as helping to support those in need,” British Olympic Association commercial director Tim Ellerton said.

General Mills, parent company of Old El Paso’s spokesperson Mark Brown added: “With the rising cost of living, we’re all having to save the pennies and a vast majority of families across UK are impacted. We might be going out less this summer, but that doesn’t mean we should be having less fun.”

READ MORE: Old El Paso launched first UK campaign in partnership with Team GB

Birmingham Commonwealth Games and Coca-Cola Europacific

Similar to Lucozade, Coca-Cola Europacific has partnered with Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

The soft drink giant has been named the Official Drinks Provider for the Games. Following the sustainable premise of Lucozade’s partnership – all bottles sold at the venues’ outlets will be 100% recyclable and made from 100% recycled plastic.

Coca-Cola will also be working with the Game’s waste management to ensure plastics collected from all the sites are processed and recycled.

On top of this, the manufacturer is expected to use low-carbon transport options and hopes to improve and enhance key areas along the Birmingham canal network through the Canal & River Trust’s project to provide sustainable transport routes. 

“It’s a privilege to be collaborating with Birmingham 2022 and other partners, to deliver a Games which supports long-term sustainable behaviour change and creates a lasting legacy for local communities,” CCEP head of climate and sustainability Sam Jones said.

READ MORE: Coca-Cola launches new Zero Sugar Zero Caffeine drink

The Hundred Cricket Competition and Robinsons

As Wimbledon servers ties with Robinsons, the squash brand has swiftly moved on being named the official soft drinks partner of The Hundred, cricket competition for the 2022 season.

However, the partnership will focus on the brand’s ready to drink, no added sugar and packaging across the eight venues of the competition.

Robinsons will also put its name to the Strategic Timeout, a break in the game which gives the bowling team 120 seconds to regroup and rehydrate.

“The Hundred has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting events in the UK’s sporting calendar and we are thrilled to be part of the action in the coming seasons,” Britvic GB marketing director Bruce Dallas said.

“Part of The Hundred’s mission is to make the game of cricket more accessible and more inclusive to families up and down the country and, as a family-favourite brand, Robinsons fully supports these efforts to promote broader engagement with the sport.

“At Britvic we are committed to helping people make healthier choices and live healthier lives through our brands by keeping well hydrated and Robinsons’ involvement with this competition provides a great platform to further this agenda.”

Click here to sign up to Grocery Gazette’s free daily email newsletter



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.



Sign up to our daily newsletter to get all the latest grocery news and insights direct to your inbox.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.