Education, partnerships might be a logical step after Coca-Cola commercial
Wed, January 30, 2013 at 16:20
Brad Spiegel in Jessica Matthews, News, coca-cola, education, midtown

This is the second of a two stories on a recent commercial by Coca-Cola that attempts to show the beverage company hopes to be part of the fight on the obesity epidemic. Fitness industry professionals give their opinions and reaction to the commercial.

Mike Heim has seen a lot of good from the Coca-Cola company, like supporting youth programs, supplying Dasani water at youth and community events, and even making changes to beverage machines in local schools and hospitals. 

So when Heim, the Youth Fitness director at the Elmwood Fitness Center in Hanrahan, La., saw the recent commercial from the beverage giant he knew it was genuine and was a big step toward the fight on obesity in America. 

He feels there are two big reasons why he thinks Coca-Cola will be able be the one leading the pack – money and influence. 

“From a positive standpoint, they have a lot of money to back up their statement. They can encourage the public to push health and fitness,” he said. 

MORE ON COCA-COLA COMMERCIAL

First story and the commercial

“I think what they are doing is the right thing by getting the message out. Coke is the easiest target because no one will take (blame) for the obesity epidemic. They are saying, ‘we recognize the issue and we want to change the culture’.” 

Travis Wood thinks Coca-Cola can take it one step further: use its money and reach to form relationships with other companies, and maybe the government, to influence more of the population that needs the education. 

“In my opinion … if Coke is smart its next move would to form partnerships with those who know how to get the message out. There is no need to reinvent the wheel,” said Wood, VP of Operations at Sky Fitness & Wellbeing in Tulsa, Okla. “There are thousands of companies out there that do this for living. If Coke is smart and partnered (with others) it will bring name recognition to the cause, between (Coke) and experts in the field.” 

One of the organizations that Coca-Cola could latch on to is among us in the fitness industry – American Council on Exercise. With helping eliminate the obesity epidemic in the U.S. part of its 25-year goal, which is set in 2010, ACE certainly would entertain partnering with them. 

“(Working with Coca-Cola) isn’t something we’ve discussed yet since (the commercial) is just out. We certainly will talk as a group (at ACE),” said Jessica Matthews, exercise physiologist at ACE, based in San Diego. “Maybe we can be the bridge builder. If there is a way we can provide support and guidance and be part of the solution, that is part of our mission and is something we are passionate about. We have the resources to speak to people and be part of the solution.” 

Matthews is somewhat cautious, however, until she sees what is next. She hopes this isn’t a one-time thing for 125-year-old company and that the dialog continues. 

“I think the commercial is something that will help further the conversation of obesity. I hope it changes the perception and will lead to a healthier lifestyle.” 

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Many feel, however, in the end it comes down to individual choice. Of course, that is where education comes in. If consumers knew that the amount of calories in something bad, like soda, fried foods, and candy, could better serve them, as in health and energy, in something healthy. 

Just because there is a low- or no-calorie option available, smaller portion containers, or the calories are listed on the front of the can, it doesn’t mean that a choice for a healthier product will be chosen. 

“Coke talks about being in schools and offering all of these healthy choices, but is a 9th-grader going to choose milk or a Coke?,” Pam Benchley, a master educator of Stages Indoor Cycling who lives in Dunkirk, N.Y., asked. “Sure there are choices, but are they going to make the right choices? 

“McDonald’s offers salads, but are you going to get a salad? I am in the fitness industry and I struggle with the (right) choices every day. I can’t imagine how it is for a teenager.” 

Benchley said after her first viewing of the commercial she was a little leery since it did come across as an advertising mechanism, while sounding as if Coca-Cola is not that one to blame in the obesity epidemic. 

“It is easy to point a finger at the big corporation and say it is their fault, but it doesn’t help them when we are bombarded with ads,” she said. “I still think there has to be more education on choices.” 

What stuck out for Steve Wallenfels, Marketing director at Tri City Court Club in Kenwick, Wash., was the effort to offer smaller sizes. He wondered if it was in response to last year’s announcement that New York City was banning large container soft drinks. 

“I think the commercial shows (Coca-Cola) is taking steps in the right direction. I felt it was a sincere effort,” he said. “The changes in portion size, they didn’t have to go in that direction. Even If it is a marketing ploy … it puts pressure on other companies. A rising tide lifts all boats.” 

The smaller portion cans are certainly good, from a calorie intake perspective, but sometimes it comes down to economics. Benchley said she went to the store to do some research prior to talking to IHRSA. She said at the store she went to was sellinh three 2-liter bottles for $5. The cost for an eight pack of the 8-ounce cans (the same amount as a single 2-liter bottle) was also $5. That translates into three times as much for the 2-liter options – the larger size. 

“As Americans we all supersizing ourselves,” said Joe White, a PR associate at Midtown Athletic Clubs. “We have to learn moderation. There are many products out there that if consume too much the effects are not good for us. I hope to see more companies step forward and say to enjoy their products in moderation.” 

For those in the fitness industry – ones who see what overindulgence and consuming the wrong food and beverages can do – just getting the ball rolling was a positive step. As long as the momentum continues well past the initial response of the Coca-Cola commercial then it will be worthwhile. 

“What I hope this commercial does is gets people thinking. Thinking about the number on the can, about how much they drink,” said Shana Martin, Fitness director at Supreme Health and Fitness in Madison, Wisc. ”It may or may not stop people from drinking on regular basis, but hopefully it will stat that process to stop high caloric input.” 

Alexandra Black, Health Promotions manager at IHRSA and a registered dietician, feels that the commercial was a positive start. 

“I think the ad is a good first step,” she said. “There is no single cause to obesity and no single cure. The solution lies in a healthful diet, getting enough physical activity, and other healthful behaviors made possible by policy and social changes that make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

 

Article originally appeared on IHRSA (http://www.ihrsa.org/).
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