A public hearing on NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed ban on 16-ounce and above sugary drinks is a week away, and soft-drink makers and sellers have launched and advertising and PR advertising assault to counter. They have a lot to lose if the cap on bottled drinks and fountain beverages sold at restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts is enacted.
The proposed ban affects sweetened drinks, such as carbonated beverages and iced teas that have more than 25 calories per eight ounces. Sales of sodas have been dropping for seven years as consumers grab more water and non-carbonated beverages such as sports drinks and iced teas.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the plan in May, saying he wanted to combat obesity. The Board of Health in New York will vote on the proposal in September. If approved, it could take effect as early as March of next year.
Hundreds of soft-drink makers and sellers, trade groups and others have formed “New Yorkers for Beverage Choices” to fight the plan.
Members of the coalition include large companies and organizations, such as Coca-Cola and the National Association of Theatre Owners, as well as many mom-and-pop food sellers. Funding comes from the American Beverage Association, which also spearheaded the campaign, reports USA Today.
The group is aggressively marketing its message through:
•Radio ads. One-minute radio ads promote the freedom to cheer for the Yankees or Mets, to live in any borough — and to buy supersize drinks. “This is New York City. No one tells us what neighborhood to live in or what team to root for,” the ad says. “So are we going to let our mayor tell us what size beverage to buy?”
•Social media. Recent tweets tweaked Bloomberg for helping to promote a July 4 hot-dog-eating contest where participants wolfed down dozens of frankfurters; the mayor presided over the contestant weigh-in. Facebook posts include anti-ban messages and conversation-starting questions such as “What do you call it, pop or soda?”
•Airplane banners. “No drinks for u! New Yorkers for Beverage Choices” reads a banner that’s been flying over the Coney Island and Rockaway Beach areas.
•Petitions. People wearing shirts that say “I picked out my beverage all by myself” are asking New Yorkers to sign a petition against the ban. So far, nearly 66,000 people have signed.
•Movie marquee ads. “Say no to the NYC ban” reads one of the movie-theater marquee signs in the city — not an official part of the coalition’s messaging but an “in-kind donation,” says coalition spokesman Eliot Hoff.
For its part, New York City government has been vocal in getting its message out. Subway ads show overflowing beverage containers with the headline, “Are you pouring on the pounds?”
Press releases from the mayor’s office list statements of support from other mayors, CEOs of health-oriented companies, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and filmmaker Spike Lee.
“We’re not banning you from getting the stuff. It’s just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses,” he said on the Today show. “That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms. It’s not something that the Founding Fathers fought for.”