Thursday, December 19, 2013

Coca-Cola Communication Manager's Master Class in Epic Spin Doctoring

For the next few weeks I'm going to take some time off from blogging - but don't you fret, I've curated a collection of some of my favourite posts from 2010. Today's post is my response to Coca-Cola's response to Dan Gardner's criticism of the Olympics accepting Coca-Cola as a sponsor.
What a heart warming story.

In a response to Dan Gardner's excellent column that called out Olympic sponsorships like Coca Cola and McDonald's as an anathema to the spirit of healthy living, Coca Cola's Canadian Communication Manager Amy Laski wrote a letter to the editor that detailed why Coke is great and why Coca Cola couldn't possibly be a player in obesity.

Her first argument? Coca Cola has been sponsoring the Olympics since 1928 but obesity rates really only started their spectacular rise in the very early 70s. Clearly if Coke's sponsorship of the Olympics had an impact on obesity, we should have seen obesity rates rise in the 30s and onwards.

Now that's a brilliant argument isn't it? I've actually never heard that one. Bravo Amy! Because people drank just as much Coca Cola back in 1928 as they do now, right? No? They didn't drink as much Coca Cola as now? Would that matter? I wonder what that graph up above would think about your argument?

Next Amy tells us that between 1999 and 2008 people consumed fewer soft drinks while at the same time physical activity dropped and so it couldn't be soft drinks and it must be inactivity that's led to rising obesity rates, right? Because really the only two variables in obesity are the amount of Coca Cola you drink and how active you are? And obesity only became a problem in and around 1999?

Amy also points out, in an argument reminiscent of the bad old days when doctors helped Big Tobacco in their attempts to convince the public cigarettes weren't bad, that Coca Cola created a "red ribbon panel" partnering up with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, ParticipACTION and the Canadian Diabetes Association and holds that out seemingly as proof of their great intentions (and at the same time highlighting just exactly why these organizations shouldn't be making deals with Big Food devils). I mean really, how could Coca Cola and soft drinks be bad if the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association and ParticipACTION have teamed up with them? It's innocence by association don't you know?

Lastly Amy notes that soft drinks contribute 2.5% of total daily Canadian calories and then tries to slough that off as nothing.

2.5% of total daily calories consumed by Canadians come from soft drinks? That ain't nothing! The average Canadian currently consumes 2,400 calories. Now that's probably a very lowball figure as it's based off of always overly conservative dietary recall data. But even using that lowball figure that means each and every Canadian consumes 60 calories or two thirds of a can of a soft drink like Coca Cola daily. But of course not everyone consumes soft drinks. I bet between young children and folks who are watching their health or their weight it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to suggest that 33% of the population almost never drink soft drinks which means then that average soft-drinking Canadian consumes a can daily.

What happens if you drink a can of Coke daily for a year? Well you'd end up slurping up 32,850 calories along with nearly 40 cups of sugar. Drink a Coke a day for a decade and that'd translate to 94 pounds worth of Coca Cola calories and 400 cups (>200lbs!) of sugar.

Yeah, 2.5% of total daily calories is nearly nothing.

Reading her letter led me to wonder - is Amy Laski stupid, or does she just think we are?