Ocean City Today

OC thinks twice on Coke proposal

Mar 08, 2018
Courtesy of: Town of Ocean City Ocean City is considering design options for oversized Adirondack chairs to be co-branded with Coca-Cola.

(March 9, 2018) Although Coca-Cola is under contract as the official soft drink of Ocean City, the City Council balked on two of three recent marketing proposals from the beverage behemoth during its meeting on Monday.

The council voted 5-2, with Councilmembers John Gehrig and Wayne Hartman opposed, to approve co-branded oversized Adirondack chairs, but had second thoughts about proposed Boardwalk light pole banners and flatly rejected repainting the Route 90 water tank to promote Coca-Cola.

Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller said the Recreation and Parks Committee vetted the marketing pitches at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Coca-Cola signed a beverage franchise contact with Ocean City last year that expires in Jan. 2022.

While acknowledging that co-branding the water tower would provide the city another unique revenue stream, Miller said there are other considerations.

“At what point are we starting to plaster the town with sponsors?” he said. “When is too much?”

In addition to covering the bulk of painting costs, Miller said Coke would pay a yet-to-be-negotiated yearly fee over the remaining terms of its contract, which could total $150,000.

The soft drink purveyor also proposed co-branded Sunbrella canvas light pole banners at three-dozen spots along the Boardwalk.

“Their goal was to put the town first and Coca-Cola second,” he said. “The cost to Coke is about $5,000.”

Coke also pitched creating co-branded custom eight-foot-tall oversized Adirondack chairs.

“The concept is to create these chairs, which are fun for visitors to capture a takeaway moment,” he said. “The goal is to build three chairs at a cost of $3,000 each to Coke.”

The chairs would be located at Northside Park and on the beach north of Division Street and south of 27th Street.

“They could be year-round placement, which is ideal to coke, but they’ve also agreed if we need to have them moved … they will take care of that,” he said.

Councilman Tony DeLuca, while on board with banners and chairs, drew a line in the sand regarding water tower advertisements.

“To me, to have a Coke thing up there is kind of a sellout,” he said. “You asked when is it too much … it’s too much.”

DeLuca suggested the water tower might be used to promote the nearby city-owned Eagle’s Landing Golf Course.

Councilman Matt James concurred with DeLuca.

“I think it’s tacky, and a sellout would be a good way to put it,” he said.

In lieu of the banner proposal, James said it would be prudent to investigate in-house costs to produce non-commercialized placards.

“I don’t want Coke on them … I don’t want any business,” he said. “I would prefer the Town of Ocean City to make something … attractive that promotes us.”

Hartman said fiscal data should be examined before tossing out the water tower concept.

“We’re making decisions and really don’t have all the information,” he said. “Do we have any idea as to the value of having Coca-Cola on there?”

Councilman Dennis Dare said the cost to paint water tanks could vary widely, and regardless of final figures, the aesthetic is troublesome.

“I’m not big on doing the advertising on the water tanks,” he said. “It gets to be a little bit too much.”

Gehrig agreed with Hartman’s assertion that the financial merits of co-branding the water tower should be vetted, including potential profits for Coke.

“We need to know what the revenue is on the marketing of the stuff,” he said. “They’re not just doing this to cover costs.”

These arguments failed to sway DeLuca.

“No matter what Coca-Cola offers for the tower my answer is no, because that’s what’s called a sellout of the town,” he said. “People don’t drive over the bridge and say, ‘Oh, I’m coming to Ocean City because I want to drink a Coke.’”

While the council killed the water tower pitch and approved the oversized Adirondack chairs, producing light pole banners internally will be examined further.

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