Coke defends WWF decision
By JUSTIN BACHMAN -- Associated Press
ATLANTA -- Coca-Cola has stopped spending its advertising money on the World Wrestling Federation's telecasts, citing often lewd language and story lines.
Coke's action follows a campaign against the WWF by the conservative Parents Television Council, but a company spokesman said today that was not the only reason it pulled the advertising.
The Atlanta-based company continues to advertise with WWF's main rival, World Championship Wrestling, a subsidiary of Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System, also based in Atlanta.
Coke ended its two-year advertising relationship with the WWF the week of Oct. 18.
"It crossed the line in terms of content, particularly in terms of language and story lines," Coke spokesman Bob Bertini said today, refusing to discuss any specifics. "It's not about wrestling. Specifically, it's about the WWF's programming content."
WWF Chairman Vince McMahon blasted Coke's decision as "discriminatory, hypocritical, and an affront to free speech."
The WWF said the commercial time dropped by Coke "was immediately replaced by advertisers at premium rates."
Bertini would not say how much Coke spent on its wrestling marketing.
The Parents Television Council, based in Los Angeles, has been pressuring advertisers to drop support of WWF programs, which are seen in 120 countries in nine languages.
Bertini said Coke had received letters from people affiliated with the council but that those did not solely influence the decision on the WWF.
And he said Coke did "not have the same content issues with the WCW."
The WWF's Monday night cable television program "RAW is WAR" draws about 6 million viewers each week.
In August, the Stamford, Conn., company listed profits of $56 million and revenues of $251.5 million in fiscal year 1999. The WWF said 5 million households purchased its pay-per-view programs this year, bringing in revenues of $150 million.