PROTESTERS defaced a series of posters put up along Oxford’s Cowley Road by Olympic sponsor Coca Cola.
Posters were placed in shop windows and banner adverts strung up on pavements ahead of the Olympic Torch procession on Monday.
But hours before the torch was due to arrive the adverts for the American drinks giant were “tagged” with the name of anti-Coca Cola website Killercoke.org Official Olympic sponsor Coca Cola had asked traders to put the posters in their windows.
The amount of branding in the road, that is famous for its independent shops, was a concern for some.
James Clarke, 30, an education worker from Abingdon Road said: “The Cowley Road ended up looking like an advert for Coke.”
Oxford green councillor Elise Benjamin said she was astonished by the amount of advertising.
The former Lord Mayor said: “I know that there is very heavy corporate sponsorship, but this is just another public event taken over by a corporate sponsor.”
“I can sympathise with protesters.
“I would certainly ask the council questions. People are getting excited about the Olympics and this is just tarnishing it.”
Coca Cola employees replaced the vandalised posters on Monday morning, just hours before the eyes of the world fell on East Oxford.
A billboard advertising the Royal Air Tattoo was also daubed with the phrase “Olympic Killer Coke”, but the graffiti was painted over on Monday.
Staff from some businesses – including retro fashion shop Reign and the Music Box – said they declined to have the posters in their windows.
However, several cafes and bars which sell the soft drink had agreed to host the extra advertisement.
Marko Washington, assistant manager of the Cape of Good Hope, in Cowley Road, said: “They brought in posters for us, and it seemed appropriate because they are an Olympic sponsor.
“We’ve got the brand all over the pub, but we’ll go back to Brakspears afterwards. Everyone has got their own opinion.”
Coca Cola also came in for criticism from Oxford residents when it was revealed that it was flying in 22 American torch bearers for Oxfordshire legs of the torch relay.
At the Monday night concert in South Park, food and drink vendors were obliged to black out their branding if they were not official Olympic sponsors.
A spokesman for the Olympic organising committee LOCOG said: “We have no control over the advertising on the relay route. We have all come in for some stick for the sponsor’s role in the relay but we wouldn’t be able to travel across the country without them.”
Thames Valley Police said no one had reported the vandalism.
Coca Cola, which has sponsored every Olympics since 1928, said in a statement: “We hope that the actions of a minority group did not negatively impact the local community’s enjoyment of the Olympic Torch Relay.”