ITV's £50m deal with Coke

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The Independent Football

ITV's coverage of the 2001-2002 Premiership season will be all the more sweeter after the broadcaster secured a three-year deal worth £50m with the soft drinks giant Coca-Cola to sponsor its newly won highlights programme, which begins in August.

The deal will help to offset the £183m ITV, controlled by Carlton Communications and Granada, paid for the package when it gazumped the BBC with a offer last June. BSkyB retained live broadcast rights, with a three-year £1.11bn bid.

Mick Desmond, the chief executive of Granada Enterprises, said: "This is an historic broadcast sponsorship deal."

Tom Long, the Coca-Cola division president for Great Britain and Ireland, added: "Our long-standing involvement with football, from grassroots to sponsorship of the World Cup, now includes the ITV Premiership highlights."

ITV has held talks with the Premier League to show its highlights programme as early as 6pm, although insiders say 7pm is also a possibility. Though many football fans would still be returning home from the grounds, the deal with Coca-Cola is likely to make ITV press for an early evening slot when viewing audiences are larger.

The sponsorship includes the highlights showcase presented by Des Lynam, together with the former England coach Terry Venables and ex-Scotland international Ally McCoist.

Also included is a range of football programming throughout the week on ITV, including a Monday night review programme, some Sunday and Wednesday night highlights and The Goal Rush ­ a rolling scores and results service on Saturday afternoons.

The agreement extends to repeat programming on ITV2 and online and offline coverage of the Premiership highlights.

The deal will feature a major off-screen marketing campaign, and promotions on Coke bottles.

Coke will also work with ITV to create a credit sequence that includes its drinks for the programmes, which is to feature the rock band U2's "Beautiful Day" as its theme song.

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