PepsiCo deal shows companies not shying away from Redskins

On the eve of training camp, the Redskins announced they'd moved on from one of their longest relationships.

Coca-Cola had partnered with the team since it began playing in Washington in 1932, and on Tuesday the Redskins announced a long-term deal with PepsiCo. A month after the Justice Department gave up its fight over the Redskins' trademark, this agreement is evidence that yet another big company is unconcerned about the NFL team's name.

"Certain teams have great brand names and great fan bases, and the opportunities to become a partner are very rare," Georgetown University sports industry management professor Jimmy Lynn said.

"The Redskins, although they haven't been to the Super Bowl since the early '90s, remain one of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. Marketing partners clamor to be associated with them and their national fan base."

Forbes recently estimated the Redskins are worth $2.95 billion, the 11th most valuable sports franchise in the world. It doesn't hurt that a Supreme Court ruling on trademarks in June went in favor of the Redskins, and that a Washington Post poll found that 90 percent of 504 Native Americans surveyed nationwide did not think the Redskins name was offensive.

PepsiCo vice president of marketing Adam Harter said there was no concern about the Redskins' name.

"The way we look at this, it's a team and league decision in our perspective," Harter said. "And we certainly respect the Supreme Court's ruling on it."

University of Oregon marketing professor T. Bettina Cornwell said PepsiCo "is not going into the situation blind." She said the current political climate, in which the Redskins' name is not under fire as much as in previous years, might have emboldened the decision.

Harter called the Redskins a "legendary" and "storied" franchise with millions of passionate fans locally and nationally.

Neither Harter nor Redskins officials would reveal the length of the contract or the financial terms.

Redskins VP of strategy and partnerships Christian Matthews said this deal "shines a light on how powerful the NFL and the Washington Redskins are" regionally. Lynn compared the Redskins to Premier League soccer teams in England because they've been in Washington decades longer than the NBA's Wizards, NHL's Capitals or Major League Baseball's Nationals, and have built a longstanding fan base.

"It's the one team that you can trace it back to my father or my grandfather had season tickets and went to games," Lynn said. "The fans are fans for decades, and it goes generation after generation."

Redskins executive vice president Terry Bateman called it a "legacy brand," noting that companies want to connect with the team's fans and are willing to pay to do so.

"We've got an extremely loyal fan base in a great market, and what it says is brands want to be a part of that and they put their money where their mouth is when they step up and become our partners," Bateman said. "We have some of the largest brands in the world as our partners, and I think that says it all."

A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said, "As friends of the Redskins organization, we wish them the best of luck in the future."


This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled the last name of University of Oregon marketing professor T. Bettina Cornwell.


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