Coca-Cola May Want Logo On OC Water Tower; Resort, Company Eye Joint Marketing

OCEAN CITY — Having a Coca-Cola logo on the town’s water tower near the Route 90 Bridge could be “the real thing” with the soda giant expressing an interest in it as a marketing tool.

In September, town officials renewed the beverage contract with Coca-Cola, making Coke the official soft drink of Ocean City. The new contract renews a five-year agreement between the town and the popular soft drink company reached in 2012, making Coca-Cola the town’s exclusive beverage franchise holder. In the months since, the town’s Special Events Department has been working with company officials on a series of potential shared marketing opportunities including banners along the Boardwalk and other locations with the Coca-Cola and Town of Ocean City logos displayed and as many as three oversized Adirondack-style chairs with the company and town logos on them offering photo opportunities for visitors.

There have also been tentative discussions about a potential shared marketing opportunity with the town’s water tower just north of the Route 90 bridge that is scheduled to be repainted. Traditionally, the town’s water towers have been painted in the iconic blue color with the city logo and some welcoming message, but in recent years, the old downtown water tower at Worcester Street was painted with the Dew Tour logo, and more recently, the tower at 1st Street was painted in the now-familiar beach ball design.

During Tuesday’s Recreation and Parks Committee meeting, Special Events Director Frank Miller said Coca-Cola has expressed an interest in painting the Route 90 water tower.

“The water tower near Route 90 is one of six in town and it is the next one scheduled to be refurbished,” he said. “It would cost an estimated $250,00 to repaint it with the existing design, but Coke has expressed an interest in it from a marketing standpoint. Because of its proximity to Route 90 and one of the main entrances to town, it has high visibility and high value as a marketing opportunity.”

Miller showed a few conceptual drawings through a power-point presentation. Perhaps the most extreme would be the entire water tower painted red with the white Coca-Cola logo on it. Another concept would be for the tower to be painted a generic color with the Coca-Cola logo on it. Yet another tentative proposal would duplicate the beach ball design currently on the downtown water tower with the Coca-Cola logo replacing the town of Ocean City’s logo.

In either case, the proposed designs are merely just that at this point and any final decision would be dependent on the town’s agreement first to allow the commercial logo on the Route 90 water tower in the first place, and secondly a design that accomplishes the city’s goals in terms of image and branding and the soda pop giant’s marketing goals. Nonetheless, Miller said it was a concept worth exploring because of the potential cost savings for the city, which will need to repaint the tower one way or the other.

“The contract with Coke is in place until 2022 and the time frame on a paint job for the water towers is about eight years,” he said. “We did set a precedent with the Dew Tour on the downtown water tower. If the town is interested in that revenue stream, it is quite a bit of money.”

Miller said Coca-Cola officials approached the city about potentially painting the water tower and not the other way around.

“They came to us with this,” he said. “They liked the Dew Tour design and they like the beach ball design.”

Councilman and Recreation and Parks Committee Chair Wayne Hartman asked if the town should consider utilizing the water tower’s refurbishment to market its own offerings.

“Coming from the Recreation and Parks side of this, would there be any consideration for a golf ball and golf tee design to market Eagle’s Landing?” he said. “Maybe there’s an opportunity to market one of our own entities with this.”

Hartman agreed the town’s water tower near the bridge represented a potentially great marketing opportunity. He referenced the beach ball water tower downtown and its close proximity to the Route 50 Bridge and how those views could be impacted by the development of a mixed-use hotel and commercial project on the old concrete plant site, which was expected to break ground this week.

“It could be a different story here,” he said. “I’m a little concerned about losing some of the view of the downtown beach ball when that new hotel goes up, but this is more wide open and the tower is surrounded by city-owned property.”

After considerable debate, the committee voted to send a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council on the Coca-Cola banners and Adirondack chairs marketing concepts and the water tower to the elected officials for further review and cost estimates.

Recreation and Parks Director Susan Petito said in her discussions with Coca-Cola officials, they were ready to move forward with the banners and the oversized Adirondack chairs, and that the discussions about the water tower were exploratory at this time and largely based on cost estimates. However, Miller said Coca-Cola officials didn’t blink initially when they were told it would likely cost around $250,000 to repaint the tower.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.