The Pepsi Public School System: Marketers on the Playground?

Across the nation, parents are indoctrinating themselves into low-carb cults by the ton. While Moms and Dads are off at work (ordering ruebens “with extra corned beef, hold the bread!” on their lunch breaks), their kids are at school taking pop quizzes and practicing lines for the school play. But, as the Associated Press reported today, grade school is not the virgin territory it once was. As schools increasingly face budget cuts, they are calling the marketers in to add billboards to their playgrounds and pump soda money into their budgets.

“Corporate advertisements are cropping up on everything from high school scoreboards to the sides of school buses,” the AP piece reads. Hoisted on top of one Texas school, a Dr. Pepper billboard. In Seattle, a school district just renewed a five-year contract with Coca-Cola that will help fund field trips and the school newspaper (Coca-Cola has contracts with 6,000 school districts).

The marriage between school districts and beverage companies has been around over the past five decades. But we are now in an age when the Surgeon General has warned us of the “obesity epidemic.” When it comes to the most common causes of premature death, we now know that the bulge is the runner up to cigarettes. Since 1963, the weight of overweight kids has quadrupled. We’re starting to pay attention to video game inertia and super-sizing-as-religion. Maybe, just maybe, advertising sweet, sugary, high-calorie root beer in between math and science class is a bad idea?

Yes, we need funding for our children’s schools so they are prepared for the future. But in order for them to have a future, they need their health. If we allow marketers to infect our public school system, what’s next? Spelling bees sponsored by Philip Morris?