Sports fans always celebrate and root on their teams, but come fall every year, college football fans may be the most passionate and loyal. From the tailgate to the final whistle, these fans are always ready to show their spirit and true colors for their teams.

And for more than 100 years, The Coca-Cola Company has been there to support college football and quench the thirst of fans from coast-to-coast as they chant, sing, jump, cheer and celebrate the action on the field.  

“As long as college football has been around, Coca-Cola has been a part of it, keeping fans refreshed,” says Allyson Young, director, Marketing Assets & Partnerships, Coca-Cola North America.

College football banner

The company's storied history with college football dates back almost to the game’s 1869 origins.

Coca-Cola Archivist Ted Ryan recounts the brand's football ties at the turn of the century in its hometown of Atlanta. “The story goes that any time a crowd gathered for a Georgia Tech game, they would get thirsty, and The Coca-Cola Company would bring bottles down to the stadium,” he said.

Over the years, Coca-Cola would expand its reach to college football fans, specifically advertising to that audience as early as the 1910s, according to Ryan. From there, Coke began providing promotional items and giveaways that cemented the brand in the minds of fans.

Today, the company's rich history with college football fandom is on display at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. A selection of past advertisements, promotions and programs featuring ice-cold Coca-Cola are part of the collection.

“There were stadium seat cushions with Coke logos, beanie caps from the 1930s with team names and colors, miniature binoculars, branded programs and lineups, special picnic coolers,” Ryan says. “Think about your ultimate tailgate, and Coke has always been focused on making your experience that much more refreshing and enjoyable, even back then.”

As the sport continued to grow, so did the enthusiasm of its fans, who turned Saturdays from a casual gathering into day-long celebration that builds in fun and intensity until the opening kick and final whistle.

“From sunup to sundown, we want to be part of fans’ game day celebrations," says Ginger Cherny, brand manager, Coca-Cola Trademark, Coca-Cola North America. “With a delicious, ice-cold Coca-Cola, we will continue to bring game day feelings of uplift, happiness and refreshment to fans as they cheer on their favorite teams all the way from home to the stadium.”

Nowhere is this more evident than ESPN’s flagship college football program, College GameDay. The fan-favorite program first aired in 1987 as a studio show and is now a three-hour extravaganza shown live from college campuses. The Coca-Cola Company, now in its fourth season as a show partner, continues to be the official fan refreshment of GameDay.

“When we first started with GameDay, we weren’t sure what to expect,” Young says. “We understood the excitement of the TV show, but did not know how it would translate to  college campuses. The students and alumni were so excited to have the show, and we wanted Coca-Cola to become an integral part of it.”

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The ‘best seats in the house’ at ESPN College GameDay have a new look and feel this season. Formerly Section Zero, the Coca-Cola Refresh Section continues to be the perfect spot for fans to be part of GameDay action.

Thus was born Section Zero, the ultimate place for fan revelry. At each GameDay location, the 50 most passionate fans are hand-picked and given the VIP treatment, and their energy becomes part of the program.

“It went from an unknown to now being a fully integrated part of the show,” Young says. “We get a lot of fun calls from colleges and universities saying how much they’d love to have GameDay and Section Zero, but we’re always clear that we don't pick where the show is going!”

This season, Section Zero is getting a makeover, transforming into the Coca-Cola Refresh Section, which remains the best spot for fans to drink in GameDay each week. “It’s the same approach, but a new look and feel for fans on the ground and those watching on TV,” Young says.

As another thrilling college football season kicks off, fans can count on Coca-Cola to cool them down with ice-cold refreshment, whether they’re screaming on GameDay, cheering in the stands or watching at home, just as it did more than a century ago.

“Fans really associate Coca-Cola with college football,” Young says. “We’ve aligned ourselves this way for 100 years. College football fans know that Coca-Cola understands the passion for their sport and how they get ready to cheer on their teams.”

Cherny sums up the Coca-Cola college football fan experience: “Being a college football fan truly is thirsty work. And we have a delicious, refreshing Coca-Cola for every cheering fan at every key football moment.”