The Collegian
Wednesday, October 21, 2020

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Coca-Cola surprises students by vending prizes

Members of the University of Richmond community tried their luck by pressing buttons on a vending machine filled with prizes during lunch hours in the Heilman Dining Center on Monday as part of the Coca-Cola Open Happiness Collegiate Vending Machine Tour.

The machine functioned as if it were a traditional vending machine, but the result was a surprise. Prizes ranged from Nintendo Wii's and Kindles to miniature Coca-Cola coolers and Coca-Cola beverages. Coca-Cola employees gave out 711 prizes, and 568 students participated, according to an email from Shannon Schorsch, marketing partnership activation manager at Coca-Cola Refreshments.

"[The tour] is a fun and unique way for Coca-Cola to bring an element of surprise and delight to a college student's typical day," Schorsch wrote.

The machine was set up in the lobby of the dining center because the area has such high traffic and is a focal point on campus, said Jerry Clemmer, director of residential dining at Richmond. He said he had found it amusing that many students had acted as though they were afraid to go up to the machine because they were not sure what to expect, but that the uncertainty had been part of the fun.

Miki Doan, a sophomore who won a miniature Coca-Cola cooler from the machine, said she thought it was a cool opportunity and a good way for students to have fun, especially during this busy part of the semester.

Schorsch wrote, "This Open Happiness [tour] reminds students the simple notion of enjoying an ice-cold Coca-Cola and taking a small break from their busy, stressful day to connect with others."

The promotion was set up after the dining center closed on Sunday night so that students would be surprised in the morning. Coca-Cola intentionally does not reach out to students or media outlets earlier to keep it a surprise, according to the campaign summary from Coca-Cola.

Clemmer said it had been easy to work with representatives from Coca-Cola. The difficult part was figuring out the logistics of sneaking in without being seen by students.

Coca-Cola employees are currently bringing the event to 10 colleges with which the company has contracts in the Northeast area, Schorsch said. In order to be fair, the colleges were geographically selected so that Coca-Cola could impact as many students as possible from Virginia to Maine.

The contract between Coca-Cola and Richmond includes money for marketing, Clemmer said. It is part of the positive and close partnership between the company and the university.

Schorsch said the staff of University Dining Services, as well as the Athletic Department, had been extremely excited and helpful in planning the promotion. The departments even donated athletic T-shirts and products for the machine to ensure that students were able to get a great range of prizes.

"I think that students are always open to new and creative things," Clemmer said. "I'm glad that they did enjoy it."

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Contact reporter Chrissy Wengloski at christine.wengloski@richmond.edu

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