Coca-Cola shows class

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.

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