Since 2004, there has been an 88% decrease in the total number of beverage calories shipped to schools.  The number is impressive, but there is still much room for improvement.  Which is why so many people were thrilled to see some of today’s leading big brand beverage competitors, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, stepping up their combined efforts to continue to remove even more full-calorie soft drinks from schools throughout the U.S.  The new campaign—which includes print and TV ads—comes on the heels of First Lady Michelle Obama announcing a national campaign to fight childhood obesity and a proposed ‘sugar tax’ being discussed in several states and cities.  Obviously, timing is perfect.

“I think even the beverage companies would readily acknowledge that taking sodas out of schools is largely a response to the increased scrutiny around marketing and advertising to kids, as well as the heightened awareness surrounding childhood obesity,” says John Driscoll, vice president, Sales & Business Development for School Family Media, Inc., Showcase Sponsor of last year’s M2Moms®-The Marketing To Moms Conference.  “I think they realize that the direction in which things are moving is towards even stronger restrictions potentially including government regulation, so my sense is that this is an attempt on their part to be proactive and to try to stay a step ahead of all that.”

While many brands are now providing “healthier for you” options that enable parents to make good choices for their families, the new emphasis on fighting childhood obesity gives brands the opportunity to connect with families like never before—especially through schools.  “The NFL and The Dairy Council for instance offer a ‘Fuel Up to Play 60’ program that is designed to help schools institute a program that encourages and rewards students for any physical activities they engage in as well as for their efforts to eat a healthy diet,” says Driscoll.  “Also School Family Media have a ‘Get Movin’ Night’ that is part of our School Family Night series designed to help PTO and PTA groups plan, promote and host events for kids and families at their school that include active fun and games designed to get everyone up and moving and having fun.”

School Family Media has actually developed a nationwide network of PTO and PTA groups at thousands of K-8 schools who are interested in providing health and wellness information, resources and samples to parents including advice on how to make healthy food and beverage choices, fun and healthy activities for kids, ideas for warding off germs and avoiding colds, and how to ways to reduce school stress.  The Healthy School Kids Program connects those brands that want to deliver health wellness related content and messaging, samples and, coupons to parents at PTO and PTA sponsored school events such as health fairs or family reading nights.  Nestle Boost Kid Essentials, Vicks, Method Laundry Detergent and Thomas’ Honey Wheat English Muffins are just a few of the brands that have recently participated in the program which is a real win/win for marketers, moms, schools and kids.  “Moms are looking for help, ideas, tools and resources that will make it easier for them to help their kids to lead active healthy lifestyles,” says Driscoll, who was a speaker during last year’s M2Moms®.  One of his favorite moments during last year’s conference?  “The one session that stood out in my mind was Wendy Clark, SVP of Integrated Marketing Communications at Coca-Cola. She did a fantastic job of talking about how dynamic the online space is these days and the kinds of things that brands need to do to stay in step with today’s busy moms,” says Driscoll.  “Her presentation was both engaging and informative and she gave real life practical examples of the kinds of specific strategies brands need to employ to be successful.”

Looks as though big beverage brands may be some of the unlikely leaders of today’s best marketing to mom strategies.