For about 20 years, Coca-Cola has been partnered with NC State’s Campus Enterprises and NC State Athletics, providing beverages at a reduced price in exchange for multimedia rights for scoreboards, radio and TV sponsorships, according to Randy Lait, senior director of hospitality services in Campus Enterprises.
However, recently Kyle Winchester, general manager for Wolfpack Sports Properties, and Lait saw the partnership make sustainability a bigger priority.
“We meet at least twice a year with a handful of folks from Coca-Cola to brainstorm, compare notes between our initiatives,” Winchester said. “The sweet spot for us is always that cross section of things that are important to our school and that might fit in really well with the product or are tied into a particular nonprofit endeavor that they're interested in.”
Lait said NC State’s beverage contract with Coca-Cola lasts for five years, with an optional extension. He said usually, the competition for campus beverage contractors is between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
“Every so many years, our beverage contract is put out for competitive bid through university purchase,” Lait said. “It's basically put out there for beverage companies who are interested in doing our campus business to provide a set of services to the campus at the best available price ... There's multimedia rights for scoreboards in the stadium, signage, coaches, radio and TV show sponsorships, those things, and making sure that the products that NC State buys from the beverage contract are at the best possible price.”
Lait said some of the programs supported by the Coca-Cola partnership include Packapalooza, Wolfpack Welcome Week and the Green Brick Award.
“Strictly speaking about the athletic side, they have standard marketing deliverables, so things like radio spots and TV spots,” Winchester said. “They have the use of intellectual property, so they're able to cobrand with the NC State market retail at point of sale. They do a lot of fanengagement-centric things, things that are going to bring value and enhance the experience for our fans, like sweepstakes and giveaways.”
Winchester said sustainability in the Coca-Cola partnership has become a priority for athletics, such as using sustainable plastics and offering compost and recycling options at Carter-Finley Stadium.
“I've seen it grow with sustainability,” Lait said. “Coca-Cola has really made a commitment to our campus. We have compostable cups and lids and straws ... and that's through Coca-Cola, as they've tried to do a couple of things to change how they handle their responsibilities for sustainability, with recycling and changing to compostable products.”
Lait said he has seen a shift in the beverage landscape as well, with the best selling beverage on campus being water.
“One thing that we talked about with them... is to create opportunities for student learning with Coca-Cola,” Lait said. “If we could connect the opportunities from people in Coke with learning experiences like supply chain management, that's a huge thing for Coca-Cola. That's one of the things I would hope for the future is to be able to align the needs of our students, to get tangible experiences with the capabilities of Coca-Cola to provide opportunities and experiences.”
Winchester said there are no specific changes he wants to see made in the partnership with Coca-Cola, but he is sure to keep the lines of communication open to new ideas.
“Their brand fits really well with NC State’s, aside from both the red and black, from a company perspective that they have a lot of similar priorities,” Winchester said. “From a product development perspective, quality control, [Coke is] really, really big on the sustainability side and number of different initiatives along those lines. They have outstanding philanthropic endeavors that they're a part of, and I think in the collective it certainly aligns well with who we are and portray ourselves to be.”