By Ian Neubauer

Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA) has downplayed a story published by The Sydney Morning Herald saying the drinks company has not ruled out sponsoring the anti-whaling movement.

“Having just returned home after a holiday in Africa, my personal view is that killing whales in Australian waters is no different to poaching elephants: unacceptable,” the website reported CCA chief executive, Terry Davis, as saying. “We are currently reviewing our brand strategy for 2008. Nothing is being ruled in or out.”

But CCA media director Sally Loane said today the company was still developing its marketing program for 2008. “We are considering all sorts of things,” she said, adding the company has no immediate plans to allocate sponsorship funds.

Anti-whaling activism has re-emerged as a mainstream issue in recent months following the dispatch of a Japanese whaling fleet to the Southern Ocean and the feverish efforts of non-government organisation Sea Shepherd to stop the fleet by any means necessary.

The Australian High Court has also weighed into the bout, ruling earlier this month that the fleet had broached Australian maritime law by hunting in our waters. Critics have been quick to describe Davis’ comments as a thinly veiled attempt to capitalise on anti-whaling headlines.

But CCA does have an indirect history with Sea Shepherd. Bluetongue Brewery—which CCA’s joint venture Pacific Holdings acquired in December—donated $250,000 to Sea Shepherd last year and published a graphic online anti-whaling ad promoting its flagship brand Bondi Blonde as a whale-safe beer. Davis’ comments can therefore be understood as an expression of interest to reactivate Bluetongue’s relationship with the movement.

Loane said CCA planned to invest substantial funds to promote Bondi Blonde, but that the marketing mix was still a work in progress. “What we are doing at the moment is looking at everything. But it is going to be one of our star brands,” she said.

The Shout Team

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