The Curious Case of the ‘Coca-Cola Kid’

The summer transfer window is currently swinging open, with a wide variety of deals rumoured to go ahead across Europe, at all levels.

Whether they be permanent acquisitions or loan moves. This is always an extremely exciting time for football fans as their club of choice look to reshuffle the deck.

However, one thing you won’t see this summer is Coca-Cola giving fans a chance to literally win a human being.

Coca-Cola In Football

The world-famous beverage has been intrinsically linked with the world of football for decades now.  

In fact, the relationship dates as far back as World Cup 1950 in Brazil. When Coca-Cola advertised at the historic tournament for the first time.

Things have only bloomed over the years. With continued advertisement and sponsorship of the World Cup, gaining the naming rights to the English League Cup from 1992 until 1998, and their ongoing partnership with the Premier League.

Even the longstanding working relationship between Coca-Cola and UEFA is still clear to see throughout Euro 2020. With the brand plastered all over the advertisements for the tournament.  

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Coke even latched on to the English Football League as its main sponsor from 2004 until 2010.

As part of the deal, Coca-Cola received the naming rights to the Championship, League One and League Two.

They also strategized a memorable marketing plan for the leagues. With the fizzy drink juggernaut recreating its logo in the colour of all 72 teams playing in the EFL at the time.

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However, that was just the start, as Coca-Cola invented a genius ploy to try spike sales amongst EFL fans. While potentially aiding their club in the process.

Coca-Cola ‘Win a Player’ Campaign

Fans were able to enter the competition by simply buying a cola drink. And if successful, the substantial sum of money would be added to the transfer budget of the club selected by the winning supporter.

“To celebrate their sponsorship of the Football League, Coca-Cola is offering football fans the chance to become a local hero by winning a player for their club. One prize winner will win £250,000 for their chosen football club to spend on player transfers and wages as well as a £10,000 cash prize for themselves.”

It tapped into people’s passion for their local Football League team. With making them believe this money could potentially save their club from relegation or be the push they need to advance up the football pyramid in England.

On the final day of the three month ‘Win a Player’ campaign, Coca-Cola drew a fans name at random, with that fans club receiving £250,000.

What’s The Catch?

Now, a global icon like Coke wasn’t going to part with such a hefty prize without adding some sort of fine print.

The generous financial reward could only be spent on a player. It couldn’t go towards debt payments, stadium improvements or redevelopment of facilities.

After all, Coca-Cola needed a poster boy for this campaign, to muster up the publicity needed for future instalments.

Strict deadlines also had to be adhered to.

The winner of the contest was announced on the 30th of May 2005. Which was the date of the Championship play-off final between Preston North End and West Ham United.

The winning team would only have until the 31st of August 2005 to spend their £250,000 prize. Even if the suitable transfer target didn’t present themselves.

Also, the whole campaign favoured the clubs from towns and cities with a higher population. More fans meant more entries, and a higher possibility of a club winning the loot.

The ‘Coca-Cola Kid’

Mark McGhee backs Coca Cola kid Colin Kazim-Richards to add fizz to Celtic  | Scottish Sun Sport | Scoopnest

After receiving over one million entries, the contest was won by a gentleman called Aaron Berry, who was a Brighton & Hove Albion supporter.

The Seagulls were still miles away from becoming the Premier League mainstay that we know today.

They were playing in the Championship at the time. Brighton finished in 20th place, with just one point separating them from the drop zone, in what was an extremely tight relegation battle involving nine teams.

This prize money would be a fantastic boost to their financial situation. Plus, give them the opportunity to bolster their squad, ahead of the 2005/06 Championship season.

Brighton decided to splash all the money on the then 18-year-old Colin Kazim-Richards, signing the striker from Bury, in June 2005.

Unfortunately, Kazim-Richards didn’t add any fizz to his new club, and the winnings proved to be a poisoned chalice.

The Turkish international made 44 league appearances for Brighton, only scoring six goals in the process.

Resulting in Brighton getting relegated to League One, finishing rock bottom in the table.

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It turned out to be a disaster spell for the teenager, who handed in a transfer request a year later. Eventually, he was sold to Sheffield United, in August 2006.

This kicked off a globetrotting career for the now 34-year-old who’s currently plying his trade with Derby County.

Overall, Kazim-Richards has played for 18 clubs. Spanning across multiple continents in countries like Turkey, France, Netherlands, Scotland, Brazil, and Mexico.

He was dubbed the ‘Coca-Cola Kid’, something that seemingly bothers him endlessly with the player saying to FourFourTwo in 2017, “I’m not The Coca-Cola Kid – I’m Colin Kazim-Richards.”

Canning The Idea

While the first ever iteration was a complete on-field disaster. Fans really embraced the concept, and it was reprised for the following season.

This time it was Southampton that reaped the rewards. As the Saints fan Chantelle Legg won the grand prize for her club, who were playing in the Championship at the time.

With the mid-table side putting the funds towards forward, Bradley Wright-Phillips.

The Englishman found himself behind the likes of Kenwyne Jones and Grzegorz Rasiak in the pecking order. But he still managed to bag 11 goals in all competitions during his first season with Southampton.

Remembering Coca-Cola's strange but brilliant 'Win a Player' competition -  Planet Football

From that season on, Coca-Cola would change the format, along with the campaigns name from ‘Win a Player’ to ‘Buy a Player’.

The £250,000 prize would stay the same. But in addition, each EFL club would be handed a small transfer kitty. Proportional to the club’s number of fan entries throughout the campaign.

This continued until 2010, when Coca-Cola ended their association with the English Football League and were replaced by Npower.

The campaign certainly left its mark and showed the initiative of Coca-Cola in terms of their willingness to market the EFL.

It wasn’t perfect, with Colin Kazim-Richards struggling to shed his ‘Coca-Cola Kid’ moniker. But we’re sure the fact he’s won silverware with the likes of Celtic, Fenerbahce, Olympiacos and Corinthians takes away the frustration.

Despite the teeth rattling nature of the beverage, maybe Coca-Cola isn’t so bad after all.

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