News: Things Go Better With Coke?

A Resolution Approves  An Agreement Between The City And Coca Cola For An Exclusive  Marketing Partnership

By Jeffrey Bradley

The city resolution says it all: Coca-Cola is coming to town in a big way. A hired consultant, The Superlative Group,  managed to snare the interest of three major soft drink players—PepsiCo, Dr Pepper/Snapple and the Coca-Cola Company—and after lengthy negotiations and presentations, the City is on the verge of signing a lucrative contract with Coke. Although details still have to be hammered out, city officials were considering a draft as of Monday.

What it came down to was Coke’s ability to put together a more remunerative package than either of its rivals.

The City has been attempting for months to identify “revenue enhancement partnership opportunities” with a soft-drink provider to generate much-needed income that’s sensitive to city codes but minus commercial hype. In a 5-0 vote (two commissioners were absent), elected officials approved a 10-year deal making Coke the exclusive non-alcoholic official beverage of Miami Beach.

In a deal the City Manager Jorge Gonzalez termed “great”, the soft drink giant will become the sole supplier of non-alcoholic drinks featured at official Miami Beach events and venues. In agreeing to provide “revenue enhancement opportunities” and advertising sales support, Coke will also have opportunity to locate vending machines and dispensers throughout city-owned properties.

As designated sponsor, Coke will corner the soft drink market at major Miami Beach events and special occasions, piggyback on the South Beach brand, gain exclusive vending machine access to parks and public places, and hold a monopoly on soft drink sales at The Fillmore, the Miami Beach Convention Center, and similar city sites.

This multi-year agreement, worth a reported $7 million in payments, sponsorships, promotions and services, reflects Coke’s eagerness for a “green” partnership featuring recycle-friendly vending machines, new and permanent bins, and educational outreach.

And, according to a company handout, Coca-Cola also agrees to provide funding to support promotional brochures and advertising efforts to the tune of millions of dollars, and distribute hundreds of cases of free products at public concessions and special events. An all-out marketing blitz envisions appearances by Miami Heat superstar LeBron James, Art Deco-theme promotional material that covers city events, mobility advertising, even a “My Coke Rewards” South Beach getaway weekend prize.

City administrators seemed willing to raise a glass of the foamy stuff to the sudden wealth of opportunities  afforded. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to market the city with resources that are beyond our disposal,” said Assistant City Manager Hilda Fernandez. “We don’t have those revenues or that type of budget.”

Coke, a marketing behemoth, knows no such restraint. It plans to combine the power of added value—giveaways, star-studded appearances, special events—and a newly designed Miami Beach/Coca-Cola logo to bolster an already formidable presence. And, the partnership undeniably opens up promotional possibilities, and helps ease efforts of covering a looming budget deficit.

The City, for its part, will be waiving event permit fees and providing free tickets to city events as part of the deal.

But will Coke go too far?

Predictably in a star-crossed town of tourists and residents, the City’s latest creative attempt to offset falling revenues has met mixed results.

“We could have gotten a better deal, with a better product, for a better price,” says Roger Abramson of the Miami Beach Convention Center, and long-time activist. “There’s not enough bang for the buck.” He finds the product vaguely “politically incorrect”, and thinks the City would be better off selling naming rights to buildings such as the Convention Center.

There’s also underlying fear of an overt commercialism that might, for example, see banners appearing across Lincoln Road.

Jo Manning, a Miami Beach resident, doesn’t consider it too big a deal. “Of all the contracts with the devil—and others—that the City of Miami Beach could possibly make, this has to be one of the more benign,” she said. Then she mused, “Could be worse; a lot worse!” At any rate, Manning thinks “the only reason for Coca-Cola is a good Cuba Libre.”

Even Mayor Matti Bower is worried that an exclusive sponsor-relationship with Coca-Cola might deter rival companies from doing business with Miami Beach, driving away revenue.

It’s clear enough why Coke is in: Miami Beach is a valuable asset. But is the City getting enough? And, despite any appearance that the City might be selling out, the deal hasn’t stirred much controversy.

“I have no opinion on the subject”, ventured John Hopkins, of Green Mobility.

But the City and Coca-Cola are thrilled with the new business arrangement. The corporation is quite happy to burnish its image and expand its presence in the “unique marketing elements” offered by a famous locale, and for a cash-strapped city, now hitched to a marketing powerhouse, the feeling appears to be mutual.

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