Bachir Zeroual’s connection with Coca-Cola started early.

As an 8-year-old child growing up in Morocco, he played football in the streets with neighbors every Saturday morning. Afterward, the group would head to the grocery store, where the losers would have to buy the winners ice-cold glass bottles of Coke. Of all the beverages the company makes, the original is still his favorite.

In his adult life, Zeroual has had the opportunity to combine his love of sport and Coke. For the last 12 years, he has worked in various marketing capacities for Coca-Cola, often in the realm of sports. “All of us have dreams as kids,” he says. “I couldn’t play professional football, so working very closely with that passion was the next best thing. Thanks to Coca-Cola, I’ve had the privilege of getting close to the best athletes in the world and fulfilling my passion from the very beginning.”

Here, the 34-year-old Global Director of Marketing Ventures shares his experience with some of Coke’s most remarkable partnerships and describes how with each responsibility comes greater gifts:

Q: How did you wind up working for Coca-Cola?

Bachir Zeroual: When I was 18, I left Morocco for France for two years of preparatory school and then three years of EDHEC business school in Lille and then I started an internship at Coca-Cola and never left!

Q: What about your internships made you want to work at Coca-Cola full time?

From the very beginning as an intern, I was in charge of the partnership with football’s national team in France. I would bring kids to the stadium to meet their idols during practices before a game. In those moments, I felt as young as those kids with stars in my eyes.

My last program of my internship, on the very last day, I was managing the activation of a track-and-field event in France (the Golden League Finale in Charlety) and I was standing near the finish line of the 100-meter race, when an American athlete broke the world record right in front of me. I was two meters from him! I had some amazing moments that I will never forget.

I was working with brilliant people and my boss was only few years older than me and he had the best job in the world (head of Sports Partnerships for Coca-Cola France), so I thought to myself I could be there one day!

Q: What have you done at the company?

From 2004 to 2006, I joined the brand team as the Coca-Cola Light brand manager. Next, I joined a newly formed Integrated Marketing Communication department within the company as a Brand Experience Manager. I basically changed jobs within the company every two years and had the chance to work on the top four or five sporting events in the course of five or six years (2007 Rugby World Cup, 2008 Euro Championships).

Q: When did you begin working on the World Cup Trophy Tour?

I began in September 2008 and from September 2009 through April 2010, we took the FIFA World Cup Trophy to 83 countries. In each place, we had a big event and invited consumers to see the trophy up close and take pictures. My big focus was the Africa tour. The campaign was about celebrating the whole African continent, so we decided to take the trophy to every African country possible. After seven months of preparation in Atlanta, in March 2009 I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, with my team to work with all the markets from there.

I went to 50 countries in 72 days with the trophy in a chartered plane and about 15 team members. I had the privilege of meeting 37 African heads of state as they welcomed the Coca-Cola and FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) delegation during ceremonies.

I’ve never seen that much happiness and enjoyment in the eyes of kids and families. It was a humbling experience. As a matter of fact, in those moments, whether you are a President, a Minister of Sports or anyone else, you can't help but smile and be amazed when discovering the biggest Sporting icon in the world. Also the dream of most young Africans is to be a football player. We were bringing a piece of the experience to them. I was honored to be part of that moment.

I was only 30 years old and sometimes I think they were crazy to let me handle all of that, but they did trust me. The beauty of working for Coca-Cola is that when you prove that you’re able to do something, you get the trust of your managers and get opportunities. Age doesn’t matter.

Q: What could possibly top that huge tour?

Not a lot! In November 2010, I was offered a position working on the 2012 London Olympics. As part of the global team, we developed the marketing plans for that event, specifically creating value for Powerade.

It may seem obvious, but loving your brand is critical to your success. If you don’t believe in it, it won’t work long term. I had a special connection with the Powerade brand from the beginning as I contributed to the relaunch of the brand in France during the World Athletics Championships in Paris in 2003, so I was happy to be part of it. Also, I had a chance to attend the Olympic Games, which was a fantastic and beautiful event. Somehow the stars aligned for a sunny London for two weeks. It was one of the best events so far!

Q: So what do you do now?

For the past five years, I’ve been part of the global sports and entertainment marketing team. In my current job in Atlanta, my boss and I have been working on different ways to approach partnerships and we started thinking about how we were fascinated by the world of entrepreneurs and start-ups. We were amazed by how small companies can build so fast a single product or a platform that resonates with a target and then create exponential value. We realized that, as a company, we had a lot to learn from them about how they solve problems in a flexible way, how they can be nimble in their approach to market, how they learn from their failures and tests and iterate. As a big corporation, we have a lot of things to bring to those companies that they don’t have: scale, reach, power of the brand, our people. This seemed like a great opportunity to create win-win partnerships.

So far we have five partnerships in marketing ventures with Spotify, Music Dealers, Endomondo sports tracker, Backplane (the company behind Lady Gaga super fans) and Misfit Wearables in connection with our active, healthy-living programs.

My role is to scout and identify potential partnerships, help them grow into the Coca-Cola system and create value for both sides. It’s definitely a shift in mentality: We have to think about the shared value or what’s in it for the partner, not just for our company.

Q: What do you particularly enjoy about your job?

My new gig is so refreshing because it’s different from what I've done before. Half of it is spent within Coca-Cola and half is spent with people outside the company, who are passionate people, believers, trying to change the world. Many of them will in some way. It’s great to work with those types of brilliant people.