Coca-Cola is currently in the midst of a large-scale marketing project throughout the Isla Vista and UCSB community, promoting products through advertising on local storefronts and participating in on-campus events.
The company has provided several Isla Vista businesses, including Rosarito, Déjà Vu and La Cantina, with new banners, signs, umbrellas, refrigerators and soda dispensers in order to gain full sponsorship and support from these restaurants. While some stores display Coca-Cola banners, others feature new permanent signs which display a Coke bottle on the right-hand corner.
Other participating businesses include Café Int’l, Angry Wings, Bagel Café, Pita Pit, Dominos, I.V. Deli, International Food Market and more. Coca-Cola has also reached university grounds, sponsoring school events and distributing products at major centers on campus such as Harder Stadium.
Fourth-year political science and philosophy major Rushpal Singh, a student ambassador for the soft drink corporation, helped organize the “Back-To-School Light Up Happiness” event last Friday at Harder Stadium, where students received free Coca-Cola soda and other products.
According to Singh, the student ambassador program is part of a marketing campaign targeting college students nationwide as the age bracket makes up some of the company’s most loyal customers.
“They are trying to generate Coca-Cola awareness and receive feedback from adults of the ages of 18 to 25,” Singh said. “They are about to release a new line of drinks and want to see which of them students prefer.”
Mehrdad Homayouni, owner and manager of Sam’s To Go in Isla Vista, said he has done business with Coca-Cola before but the company has recently been more proactive with their interactive advertising tactics, adding that the sandwich shop is currently advertising for an upcoming drawing co-hosted by Coca-Cola.
“They helped us rearrange some of their products, get rid of some of the products that weren’t selling and did a little bit more marketing for us,” Homayouni said. “I think this is good for the small businesses in Isla Vista.”
Although Coca-Cola has received much support from local restaurants, some store owners have chosen to not participate in the new campaign. Owner and manager of I.V. Drip Tom Leu said he declined offers from Coca-Cola and feels the new advertisements hurt the aesthetics of downtown Isla Vista.
“I think it looks tacky,” Leu said. “A lot of money was put into developing Isla Vista, with buildings like the Loop, and their presence takes away from all of that.”
Fourth-year biochemistry major Leah Foltz said she is disappointed with the company’s prevalence in the area and feels the increasing corporate presence in Isla Vista is damaging to the community’s usually less commercial vibe.
“I think that a big part of Isla Vista culture is having independent small businesses, and having companies like Coca-Cola bribing businesses to advertise their product takes away from that culture,” Foltz said in an email. “Having Coca-Cola symbols on every sign makes everything look uniform, ruining the individuality of I.V.”