Coke chart aims to win over pop stars

Coca-Cola is to use its controversial sponsorship of the BBC’s Top of the Pops charts as a way to get pop stars to endorse its new music download service.

The Official UK Chart Company, which compiles the chart for the BBC, will play matchmaker between the soft drink giant and record industry marketing directors.

It signed Coca-Cola as the sponsor of its chart two weeks ago, plunging the BBC into a major row over backdoor advertising. Under strict BBC rules, sponsorship of TV or radio programmes is banned and marketing experts say Coca-Cola would never have come on board were it not for the exposure on TV and radio.

The chart company will host a series of meetings between Coke and record bosses as part of a drive by the drinks company to get the music industry and pop stars behind its download service.

“We are going to set up marketing committees to facilitate meetings between Coca-Cola and the marketing directors of the big music companies,” said Darren Haynes, the brand marketing manager of the OCC.

“Access to artists is key because they need to get endorsement and it is one of the key drivers for legitimate downloads,” said Mr Haynes, adding that the first committee would be in the first quarter of next year.

A spokeswoman for Coke said credibility with the music industry for its download chart was one of the main reasons behind its decision to sponsor the charts.

“The sponsorship will assist us in getting long-term credibility with the music industry; it shows we’re serious about music,” she said.

A close relationship with the music industry will be essential for Coke as it muscles in on record retailers by launching its own music download service in the UK.

Coca-Cola will become the first high-profile consumer brand to get involved directly in the music business, launching what it claims will be the largest collection of tracks yet available.

The site,, will launch in January, offering a catalogue of over 250,000 new and recent hits from more than 8,500 artists, with all four major record labels represented.

Coke’s deal to sponsor the official charts caused uproar because of the plugs it will get on BBC1’s Top of the Pops show and Radio 1’s chart countdown.

Commercial rivals see the publicity – two verbal mentions on Radio 1’s chart countdown and a text credit in the closing title sequence on Top of the Pops – as advertising on the BBC “through the back door”.

The Guardian, Julia Day
Mon 15 Dec 2003 14.42 GMT