Why Mayor Bloomberg’s Soda Ban Plan Is PR Genius

Since proposing a ban on large-sized sugary drinks last Wednesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been labeled everything from a “nanny state” tyrant to an out-of-touch rich guy with a Napoleon complex.

His proposed ban made national headlines, appearing on the evening news broadcasts and morning shows, around-the-clock on cable news, and on the front pages of many newspapers.

It was also manna for late night comedians: Jon Stewart searingly said it would “combine the draconian government overreach people love with the probable lack of results they expect,” while Stephen Colbert comically assassinated a man dressed as a Big Gulp.

Despite the mocking headlines and negative press, Michael Bloomberg may actually be a PR genius who has outsmarted the media.

More than half of NYC’s residents are overweight or obese, costing the City an estimated four billion dollars in public funds each year.

In 2009, New York State proposed an 18 percent tax on sugary drinks; the plan was later abandoned. That same year, New York City launched a massive anti-soda advertising campaign with posters that asked “Are You Pouring On The Pounds?” That campaign, while visually powerful and memorable, failed to reverse the City’s obesity statistics.

Bloomberg needed a game changer. So here’s a plausible theory: What if, when he announced the soda ban last week, Mr. Bloomberg knew he wouldn’t be able to implement it? What if that wasn’t even his goal?

What if his main goal, from the very start, was to help consumers forge a strong connection between sugary drinks and obesity, using the media to help carry his message? What if he wanted millions of people – in New York City and around the country – to become more aware of the connection between Coca Cola and fat? What if he wanted news organizations to report that a 16 ounce soda has the equivalent of a jaw-dropping 20 sugar cubes?

Mayor Bloomberg may have already won. If his main goal was to reverse obesity rates by arming millions of people with the information they need to make better choices, he may have succeeded. He doesn’t need his plan to become law in order to achieve that. And he probably knew that all along.

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.