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Top story: Rugby World Cup drops Coca-Cola for Suntory

Rolling sports business news wrap: Every deal, every day.

by Sam Carp

Top story: Rugby World Cup drops Coca-Cola for Suntory

Top Story

World Rugby has announced that Suntory Holdings Limited will replace Coca-Cola as the official soft drinks supplier for this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.


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The Japanese brand, which is already tied to rugby union in the host nation through its ownership of the Suntory Sungoliath team, will supply all 20 competing teams with bottled water for the duration of the tournament, which is taking place in Asia for the first time from 20th September to 2nd November.

The deal, which was brokered by Japanese advertising agency Dentsu, ends Coca-Cola’s long-running association with the Rugby World Cup. The company had been an official partner for the last six editions of the sport’s flagship international tournament, dating back to 1995.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said: “The appointment of another major brand to the tournament commercial family will further broaden the reach and profile of what is shaping-up to be the most popular Rugby World Cup ever with record ticket demand and the biggest-ever broadcast and digital media footprint.”

"Our rugby club, Suntory Sungoliath, has contributed to the enhancement and development of rugby in Japan, winning the Japan Championship eight times,” added Suntory chairman and chief executive Nobutada Saji. “We intend to continue our contribution to the development of rugby in Japan and the future of the world of sport.”


Entertainment and sports publication VenuesNow has reported that Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Milwaukee Brewers’ new ballpark naming rights deal with American Family Insurance will net the team a cool US$4 million per year. The contract, which kicks into gear in 2021, marks a significant improvement on the franchise’s previous deal with MillerCoors, which agreed to pay US$41.2 million over 20 years back in 1996.

Japanese automotive brand Lexus has become a sponsor of this year’s revamped Davis Cup Finals, which take place in Madrid from 18th to 24th November.

Top-flight French soccer side Olympique Lyonnais have signed a two-year agreement with Bob Sports making the online betting firm the Ligue 1 club’s first regional partner in Asia.

Electronics company Semp TCL will sponsor this year’s Copa America, the flagship international soccer tournament for national teams in the Conmebol region.

The Overwatch League (OWL) esports competition has entered a multi-year partnership with insurance firm State Farm.

Meanwhile, OWL team the Houston Outlaws have renewed their partnership with T-Mobile for the 2019 season.

Staying with competitive gaming, gambling brand Betway has agreed to extend its sponsorship deal with ESL.

Zhik has been announced as the official clothing supplier of the Australia SailGP team.

Media Rights

Golf’s European Tour has announced a three-year digital broadcast rights deal with Chinese internet company Sina Sports. The agreement covers all of the circuit’s events until the end of the 2021 campaign.

Fifa, soccer’s global governing body, has opened an invitation to tender in Russia for the media rights to the 2022 World Cup, the 2019 Women’s World Cup and various other major events between 2019 and 2022.

Eurosport Romania has extended its rights deal to English soccer’s Premier League for another three seasons, starting with the 2019/20 campaign.

Multinational broadcaster Eleven Sports has added the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) 2019 Unibet Premier League to its portfolio of coverage in Belgium and Luxembourg.

US sports broadcasting giant ESPN has confirmed that it will broadcast two hours of the NFL Scouting Combine – a week-long opportunity for college football players to showcase their skillsets ahead of the NFL Draft – on affiliate network ABC.

Digital sports video platform SendtoNews has done a multi-year rights deal with Nascar to distribute the stock car racing series’ highlights and other content to more than 1,600 publishing partners across North America.

The Riot Games esports organisation has agreed a long-term broadcast partnership with Russian internet service Yandex.

Melbourne-based Crocmedia has secured radio rights to this year’s ICC Cricket World Cup, as well as the Australian national cricket team’s upcoming tour of India. 

British public service broadcaster the BBC will show the semi-finals and final of this weekend’s European Mixed Team Badminton Championships on its digital platforms after agreeing a deal with rights holder Sportradar.

Personal Endorsement

National Basketball Association (NBA) MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo has added to his growing endorsement portfolio by signing a deal with Metro by T-Mobile, the pre-paid wireless carrier brand.

America’s highest ranked men’s tennis player, John Isner, has extended his apparel partnership with Fila.


American tennis star Sloane Stephens is back with the IMG agency after her incumbent management team Creative Arts Agency (CAA) decided to shut its tennis arm after more than ten years in operation.


Social media giant Facebook has revealed that National Basketball Association (NBA) player Steph Curry will be the subject of the latest documentary series on its Watch platform. The six-part series will follow the Golden State Warriors star on and off the court, and will premiere later this spring.

Multi-platform sports programmer Stadium has announced the launch of its linear network – Stadium 24/7 – on Sling TV, which has made Stadium content available on both its Blue and Orange subscription plans.

Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls have confirmed that their Red Bull Arena will switch to mobile-only ticketing from the start of the 2019 season.

Politics and Governance

Ex-Fifa executive committee member Worawi Makudi has won his fight against a five-year ban from soccer’s global governing body. The former president of the Thailand Football Association (FA) was barred in 2016 for committing ‘forgery and falsification’.

Security and Integrity

A group of athletes have launched Global Athlete, a new body that aims to give a voice to the views of professional sports people around the world in response to the Russian doping and US Gymnastics scandals.