WASHINGTON: Bowing to pressure from groups concerned about
commercialization in public schools, the Coca-Cola Company finally
announced last week that it supports non-exclusive agreements with
Coke also agreed to provide a range of drinks, including juice and
water; to limit sale of drinks to certain times and locations; and to
use non-commercial signage on the vending machines (see right). Groups
like the Center for Commercial-Free Public Education have been critical
of Coke and Pepsi's aggressive pursuit of sole availability in
Coke retained DC-based Widmeyer Communications 18 months ago to develop
a strategy for answering criticism from educators and parents about its
policies. Coke had previously pursued exclusive arrangements in schools
to ensure only its products would be sold on campus.
Widmeyer brought Coke together with groups like the National Association
of Secondary School Principals to work through the issue. 'Coke came to
us to determine if there were strategies or partnerships that would
ensure it could continue to sell its products in schools,' said David
Summers, VP and education practice director at Widmeyer.
'It also wanted to develop strong relationships with the educational
community and build strong programs that would help schools and
students,' he said.
Christopher Beakey, assistant VP with Widmeyer, said Coke finally made
the decision to change its policy six weeks ago. 'We started getting
real serious vibes then that we would be able to announce something,' he
'It is the end of a very long process.'
Widmeyer gave USA Today, the AP and the Los Angeles Times a lead on the
story, then announced the news publicly at a meeting of national
educational associations in Washington, DC.