Carolina Panthers

Bye, Pepsi. Hello, Coke: Panthers replace longtime sponsor, ushering in a new era

The Carolina Panthers said Friday they have added Charlotte-based Coca-Cola Consolidated as a new sponsor, replacing Pepsi as the official soft drink of the team. The deal could usher in a new era of corporate sponsor deals for the team, which was bought by billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper last summer.

The Panthers announced the deal on the team website without disclosing its terms. Coke products will be sold at Bank of America Stadium starting this weekend during the CONCACAF Gold Cup soccer matches.

Additionally, the Coke name will be featured prominently throughout the stadium as part of the deal. The company will have scoreboard signage, video-board activation, an LED ribbon board presence, concession signage and a few special branded areas throughout the stadium.

Tepper has said that selling sponsorship spots inside the stadium is something the team could explore as a way to tap into new revenue sources. That’s a change from years past, when Bank of America was the only prominent corporate brand name in the stadium’s bowl.

Speaking to reporters in January, Tepper suggested that increasing stadium sponsorship is something the team’s new chief operating officer, Mark Hart, would work on.

“(Hart) brought his daughter to the stadium and his daughter said, ‘How come you don’t have any sponsors?’” Tepper said.

Coca-Cola Bottling Co. opened as the state’s first bottling plant in Charlotte in 1902. Charlotte was one of the first cities to bottle the brand, the bottling company’s CEO Frank Harrison told the Observer in 2015. Pepsi, the Panthers’ longtime soda provider, was founded in North Carolina in the 1890s.

Pepsi took over as the soda provider at the Panthers stadium in 2003, the Charlotte Business Journal reported in August 2012. It replaced Coke, which had “pouring rights” there from 1996 through 2002.

“Throughout North and South Carolina, in their local communities, in stores, across our social media platforms and at Bank of America Stadium, fans will see and feel Coca-Cola and the Panthers coming together to bring them new experiences and programs all year round,” team president Tom Glick said in a statement.

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As the retail and sports business reporter for the Observer, Katie Peralta covers everything from grocery-store competition in Charlotte to tax breaks for pro sports teams. She is a Chicago native and graduate of the University of Notre Dame.