American Idol is losing another familiar face. Coming off record low finale ratings and negative forecasts from most observers, the reality competition program is saying goodbye to longtime sponsor Coca-Cola. Or more specifically, Coca-Cola is walking away from one of the most successful partnerships in the history of television.
While the move may shock many fans who grew accustomed to seeing the red Coke cups on the judges’ table, it probably wasn’t a very big shock to those working behind the scenes on American Idol. According to Variety, Coca-Cola shelled out $49.1 million for American Idol advertising in 2012. This past season, that number plummeted to $16.3 million. Given the shrinking of ratings and influence the show has been beset by over the past few years, those figures actually make sense too.
Here’s the official statement from Coca-Cola…
“After 13 years, we feel it is the right time for the Coca-Cola brand to venture into new spaces and pursue other opportunities to connect with teens and leverage music as a passion point.”
Since the reality competition’s debut in 2002, a whole lot has changed about American Idol. Original judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul all left over the years. The creative team of Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick were given the boot. Most of the bells and whistles have been fine-tuned, altered and polished. Even the number of weekly episodes has changed. Throughout it all, however, there’s been 1) Ryan Seacrest and 2) Coke. Not anymore.
It’s impossible to explain to those who didn’t watch the show every week for a decade just how oddly important Coke became. The Green Room was turned into a Red Room. The contestants put on fake commercials and every single shot of the judges’ table looked a little something like this…
Even as the judges have changed, the basic image and the larger idea have remained the same: American Idol is brought to you by Coke. Coke supports American Idol. Coke supports music. If you like the music on American Idol, you’ll definitely love Coke.
Sadly, advertisers have started moving away from the idea that American Idol has its pulse on the pop music scene. The average age of the show’s viewers has trickled higher and higher for years, and the buzz around the program is all but gone. Today is just the most obvious example of that.
It’s the end of an era.