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England star Rooney signs for Coke in £500,000 deal

LONDON - Coca-Cola has expanded its relationship with football by signing England wonderboy Wayne Rooney in a £500,000 deal to front a new advertising campaign.

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Rooney, the 18-year-old Everton and England striker, will appear alongside his 17-year-old girlfriend Colleen McLoughlin, according to reports.

The ads will be shown in the run-up to the Euro 2004 football championships, to be held in Portugal.

Coca-Cola has extensive ties with football in schools, but its World Cup advertising has so far not used celebrity players -- instead it featured the three-legged animated character Leggsy, who scores the winning goal.

Rival cola brand Pepsi has taken the lead in using football stars in advertising, having featured David Beckham and former Manchester United team mates Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and Chelsea's Juan Veron in Pepsi campaigns.

According to reports of Rooney's deal, the footballer will also back Coca-Cola's football in schools programme, encouraging 37,000 children to take part in a Coke-sponsored under-13s tournament.

Rooney said: "I am excited to be working with Coca-Cola. It's great to work with a brand that shares my passion for football."

Coca-Cola said earlier this month that it would no longer be marketing to under-12s and would not be running advertising during children's television programmes, over concerns that sugary drinks contribute to the growing problem of obesity among children.

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