Are Coca Cola's Donations for Public Parks Just "Sugarwashing"?
Coca Cola's public relations firm just won an industry award for its campaign to get Americans to vote for their favorite park. The beverage giant donated $175,000 total to the three top vote-getters, a sizable boost to the parks, but an insignificant drop in Coca Cola's staggering profits. From Ragan's PR Daily, which bestowed the award:
For a campaign that relied on the participation of a busy and time-strapped public, it delivered. More than 13 million votes were cast, 38,000 park photos uploaded and more than 17,000 videos viewed online.
I always find it instructive to look at public relations industry awards, because they reveal the sophisticated ways in which marketers try to greenwash, pinkwash, and, yes, sugarwash their way into consumers' hearts and minds.
In this case, Coca Cola teamed up with the National Park Foundation, America's State Parks, the National Recreation and Park Association and the Women's Basketball Association – along with fitness impresario Jake "Body by Jake" Steinfeld and celebrity Ryan Seacrest to burnish its corporate image; the company has been donating to parks for more than 40 years, according to a campaign press release and fact sheet.
Here at ReportingonHealth.org, Antidote's William Heisel has examined how Coca Cola funds youth sports and school playgrounds, even as claims it doesn't market to children under 12.
Here's another way local governments could raise money to improve parks – and potentially help reduce obesity and diabetes: levy a soda tax. But as Coca Cola and other sugared beverage makers grow roots deep into communities' parks and schools, that's more and more becoming politically unfeasible.