As well as the football being played, you may have noticed that Euro 2020 is also host to a secondary, but nonetheless entertaining tactical contest in the media room.
It began a few days ago when Cristiano Ronaldo took umbrage at sharing his news conference with two bottles of Coca-Cola. The Portugal captain removed the soft drinks from the desk in front of him and replaced them with a bottle of water.
He may have publicly slighted one of Euro 2020’s main corporate sponsors, but Ronaldo’s act of defiance soon inspired a group of copycats.
France’s Paul Pogba upset another tournament benefactor by removing a bottle of Heineken that had been placed in front of him.
Paul Pogba mirrors Cristiano Ronaldo’s Coca-Cola snub by removing a Heineken bottle from his Euro 2020 press conference.
It’s thought that the midfielder may have removed the bottle due to his Muslim faith, unaware that it was actually a non-alcoholic version of the beer.
Andriy Yarmolenko was next up, with the Ukraine winger swapping bottles around while cheekily attempting to forge a few new sponsorship deals of his own.
On the back of his two-goal heroics against Switzerland the previous day, Italy midfielder Manuel Locatelli took a leaf directly out of Ronaldo’s book by exchanging Cokes for mineral water. Even Russia’s head coach Stanislav Cherchesov had a little fun during his media conference by helping himself to a complimentary swig of Coke.
The ongoing “bottle battle” at Euro 2020 hasn’t done Coca-Cola many favours either, with a dramatic $4 billion fall in share price ensuing in the aftermath of Ronaldo’s high-profile snub.
Euro 2020’s bottle battle is grabbing headlines. UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images
It’s certainly not the first time a partnership deal has backfired, with football witnessing more than its fair share of corporate hiccups over the years. Here’s a few:
1. Chevrolet’s Man United and Liverpool mashup
Chevrolet made a hash of things in 2013 when they attempted to bring fans of Manchester United and Liverpool together in the name of brand unity.
The company had multi-million pound deals with both clubs at the time and thus created an advert that spliced together players from either side of the divide, all reciting a message about how special their respective teams are.
As you might expect, the advert was immediately denounced by both sets of rival fans, with Chevy forced to beat a rather hasty retreat to the drawing board.
2. The wrong Wonga logo for Newcastle
Newcastle’s new 2015/16 kit has a massive error on it http://t.co/htAKZsbhSo pic.twitter.com/wooL0v9TZB
— Indy Football (@IndyFootball) May 20, 2015
Newcastle United made a similar mess of their kit launch in 2015 when they somehow managed to unveil their latest shirt with the wrong brand logo on the front.
The problem stemmed from the fact that sponsors Wonga had rebranded mere hours before the kit was launched, leaving Newcastle with a shirt that was out-of-date right from the off.
3. Dulux paint Tottenham in a bad light
Tottenham were at their Spursy best when they broke news of a major new commercial development toward the tail end of the 2020-21 season.
Spurs revealed Dulux had become their official paint supplier only for the company to kick off their new partnership by openly mocking them on Twitter.
It’s the perfect match – Dulux has become the first ever Official Paint Supplier to football giant Tottenham Hotspur!
To kick things off the Dulux Dog took a tour of the stadium to inspect the decorating work that’s underway…#Dulux #THFC #COYS pic.twitter.com/qI6HbgZP2U
— Dulux UK | Colour & Inspiration (@duluxuk) April 15, 2021
First Dulux began by sharing a meme of Spurs’ empty trophy room, then followed up by suggesting their famous dog mascot could do a better job in defense than any of the current back-four.
Less than an hour into Tottenham’s partnership with Dulux and it’s fair to assume they haven’t let the social media team know about it. pic.twitter.com/VuEXnvkw1Y
— Nick Reilly (@NickJWReilly) April 15, 2021
Narrator: “In hindsight, Tottenham’s decision to partner with Dulux was a rather serious misstep.” pic.twitter.com/oDABsSEIHf
— HLTCO (@HLTCO) April 15, 2021
Unsurprisingly, a contrite apology followed soon thereafter as they tweeted: “We’re deeply sorry for the posts from Dulux this morning in response to the announcement of our relationship with @SpursOfficial .These do not reflect how proud we are to be the Official paint Supplier of the Club. We’re investigating what happened and apologise to all Spurs fans.”
4. Ansu Fati can’t drive yet
Barcelona starlet Ansu Fati made a stuttering start to his commercial endeavours after signing up to become an ambassador for Cupra, the Spanish motor company.
The deal saw Fati presented with his very own top-of-the-line sports car, with the only hitch being that the 18-year-old winger didn’t have a driving license after injury issues prevented him from taking his test.
5. A ‘Boiler Man’ mascot
Nothing brings home the stark reality of life in the Football League quite like having a poor chap dressed up in an anthropomorphic combi boiler costume roundly jeered by thousands of people. Getty
West Brom fans were faced with a stark reminder of their plight after starting the 2018-19 season in the Championship following their relegation from the top flight the previous campaign.
As if to really ram it home, the Baggies introduced their new mascot to fans before the first game of the season — a man dressed as a boiler, named “Boiler Man.”
Colin the Combi (to give him his official name) received a vociferous reception at the Hawthorns, which was not very cordial.
6. Don’t bet on Antonio
West Ham forward Michail Antonio bore the brunt when the club’s shirt sponsors got ideas above their station back in 2016.
After losing against Chelsea, the Hammers’ partners at Betway decided to criticise Antonio’s performance, singling out the utility man as “an accident waiting to happen” on social media.
Betway formally apologised to Antonio after the game for their “inappropriate” comment but the tweet in question is still up on their official account.
7. Man United get tapped up
Manchester United command a vast, bulging portfolio of corporate affiliations all around the world, boasting everything from snack noodle partners to official club tractors.
Principal partner to @ManUtd, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the team’s historic Treble win with the Treble Collection. #KohlerUnited pic.twitter.com/AobwiiNL46
— Kohler United (@KohlerUnited) June 3, 2019
However, it was United’s collaboration with Kohler that raised eyebrows in 2019 when the American plumbing supply company decided to pay homage on the anniversary of the 1999 treble in the only way they knew how.
As a historic mark of respect for one of United’s greatest-ever triumphs, Kohler released a special set of taps, engraved with various references to that balmy night in Barcelona against Bayern Munich.
Sales must have been through the roof, or down the sink — as the case may be.
8. Delays on the line
Preston North End marked their progression to the 2014-15 League One playoff final at Wembley by allowing Virgin Trains to sponsor their shirts.
Preston fans face issues getting to Wembley by rail for the play-off final, despite being sponsored by Virgin Trains http://t.co/XTfsXbjh2M
— BBC Lancashire (@BBCLancashire) May 14, 2015
Sadly, due to planned maintenance work on the line, Virgin were not able to operate any trains from Preston to London ahead of the game. This left thousands of North End fans having to traipse to the national stadium by coach to watch what was ironically dubbed “The Replacement Bus Final” by those in attendance.
Preston ended up beating Swindon 4-0 on the day to seal promotion in style, so at least it wasn’t a total wash-out.
9. Oh Lord…
When it comes to naming rights, one of the most amusing side effects of such a deal came at Burnley in 2015.
One of the stands at Turf Moor is named after the Clarets’ greatest-ever chairman, Bob Lord — a revered character who oversaw the most successful period in the club’s history, winning the First Division championship in 1960 and reaching the FA Cup final the year after.
The Totally Wicked Bob Lord Stand and the snow on the Pennines: pic.twitter.com/NcrY3kLDrY
— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) January 17, 2015
However, a partnership with an unfortunately upbeat e-cigarette brand somewhat served to undermine the reverence with which Lord’s name is spoken around the place.
Lord was many things, but “Totally Wicked” almost definitely isn’t one of them.
10. Nicklas Bendtner’s pants
Nicklas Bendtner wearing his Paddy Power lucky pants after scoring the equalising goal! #Euro2012 pic.twitter.com/X01UwVS5
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) June 13, 2012
Denmark striker Nicklas Bendtner revealed a pair of bookmaker-branded underpants when he scored in a 3-2 defeat to Portugal at Euro 2012.
Bendtner, who got both goals as Denmark came from 2-0 down to level the match before conceding a late winner, revealed branding from Irish bookmaker Paddy Power during celebrations of the equaliser.
UEFA didn’t see the funny side and the 24-year-old Arsenal forward was banned for one match and fined €100,000.
“It is just a pair of lucky boxer shorts that I used in the first game as well and have used before the tournament,” he said, possibly with tongue firmly in cheek. “I didn’t know I was breaking any rules but I am aware of that now.”
11. The wrong drink can cost you…
Euro 2020 players, beware. Coca-Cola has history here. Ronaldinho once forfeited a huge sponsorship deal with the brand after he conducted his introductory unveiling news conference at Atletico Mineiro in 2012 from behind two cans of rival drink Pepsi.
Coke pulled the plug on a deal worth around $750,000-a-year after watching Ronaldinho sip a Pepsi (who sponsored Mineiro) in front of the watching world.
Coca-Cola said in a statement: “Coca-Cola recognises the career and value of Ronaldinho. However due to recent developments it has become impossible to continue the partnership.”
Marcelo Pontes, Coca-Cola marketing chief, told Brazilian newspaper O Estado de Sao Paulo: “The fact that the player has appeared with a can of Pepsi was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The sponsorship had become embarrassing.”