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Ole Miss Winter Intersession Course Travels to the Coca-Cola Headquarters

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Ole Miss Professor Chris Canty Sparks brought her Winter Intersession IMC 580 Course to the Coca-Cola Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Pictured above: Chris Sparks, Caleb Cartwright, Danielle Dean, Mayra Fabian, Heather Fletcher, Alisa Fuller, James Griffin, Anne Jordan, John McCurdy, Taylor McIntrye, Anna Phillips, and Laura Speights.

Professor Chris Sparks brought her students in the IMC 580 Winter Intersession course to explore Atlanta and the Headquarters for Coca-Cola, complete with an interactive visit to the World of Coca-Cola.

Most people that know Professor Chris Canty Sparks can tell you of her love and passion for at least one thing: Coca-Cola. After spending over 15 years with the beloved brand, it is still hard for her to stay away for long. Sparks set up a date for her IMC 580 Winter Intersession course on January 7 to visit and learn more about the inner workings of Coca-Cola and what truly makes it such an American and iconic brand. The Ole Miss students were surprised with a truly interactive and engaging VIP treatment through the Coca-Cola Headquarters.

Taylor McIntrye and Mayra Fabian are both seniors in the IMC undergraduate program at the University of Mississippi. Both students felt that the trip and the Winter Intersession course was extremely impactful.

McIntrye said,”The Coca Cola Intersession course has been my favorite class I’ve taken as a student at Ole Miss. I really enjoyed learning how IMC is being put into practice in the real world, especially at a company like Coca-Cola. Our trip to Atlanta was amazing. We sat in on meetings, ate in Coke’s cafeteria, recieved a V.I.P tour of the  building, and interacted with Coke’s employees. It was so cool to listen about Coke’s current and future IMC campaigns. During one of the meetings our class had the opportunity to contribute our personal IMC ideas. We actually presented our ideas and it was so awesome to be able to interact with Coke’s campaign team. I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to do something like that again!”

When asked about her own experiences in the course and with the trip, Fabian said, “I find that Coca-Cola is more than just a brand, but is a staple to American culture. You get the chance to see the role Coca-Cola has played in our history and how it has evolved with the people of this country. It was impossible not to wander off on your own and look at all the cool Coke artifacts. Not only did they have a ton to look at, but they also had all these interactive stations where you could design your own bottle, ‘pour’ the perfect Coke, and you could get within ten feet of the Coca-Cola recipe. If I had the choice to retake any one class from my entire college experience, IMC 580 with Chris Sparks would be my decision, hands down. Even without the World of Coke tour or trip inside Headquarters, this two week course encompassed everything I have learned throughout my time in the IMC program. It covered everything from account planning to research to PR and all the flops in between. Chris has this insane passion for Coca-Cola and how they’ve always been ahead of the advertising curve, and I know it resonated with each and every one of the 11 IMC and non-IMC students in my class. It is impossible to walk out of this class uninspired. It was more than Coca-Cola; it was about a way of thinking and becoming the type of discontented individual that helped Coke get to where it is today. ”

This was a valuable experience for the students, who were able to meet and talk with some of Coca-Cola’s top executives, as well as put themselves in the shoes of the marketers of the brand. The Coca-Cola Headquarters welcomed the students with their very own University of Mississippi flag.

The class met up with Jim Gulley and set up a special meeting with the Coca-Cola brand team at the Coca-Cola Headquarters as well. The students became active and valuable members of the brand team to come up with and discuss new and up and coming ideas for the Coca-Cola brand as a whole. The Ole Miss students were also able to participate with the Innovation lab, where Coca-Cola researches messaging and responses to consumer stimuli.

These Ole Miss IMC students were also allowed the opportunity to sit in the boardroom where important business executives for Coca-Cola dwell on important decisions and opportunities for the brand. The students seemed to be most impressed with meeting with the brand managers, where new marketing and branding ideas for the brand were discussed and the students were able to put themselves in their shoes. The trip was complete with an exciting visit to the World of Coca-Cola, where students were able to fill up on Coca-Cola to their hearts content and be further engaged with the iconic brand.


Samantha Mitchell is a staff writer for HottyToddy.com and can be reached for questions or comments at smitche3@go.olemiss.edu. All of the photos in this article were taken by Chris Canty Sparks or by her students in the course.

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Coca-Cola Executives showed the Ole Miss students around the Coca-Cola Headquarters.
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Jim Gulley, an Ole Miss alumni and Coca-Cola Executive, met up with the Ole Miss students and joined them for the tour.
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Part of the tour at the Coca-Cola headquarters.
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The Ole Miss students were given the VIP treatment and were allowed to sit down in the Executive Boardroom in the Coca-Cola Headquarters.
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The Ole Miss students were greeted with their very own University of Mississippi flag in the lobby of the Coca-Cola Headquarters.
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Jim Gulley discussing the impact of the Robert W. Woodruff, one of the first presidents of the Coca-Cola Company.
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Students hanging out in Coca-Cola world and seeing the true impact of the history of the brand.
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The Ole Miss students got to hang out with the Coca-Cola Bear during the tour of Coca-Cola World.
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Students “locking the vault” at the World of Coca-Cola.
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The Ole Miss Students visited the original office of Robert Woodruff.
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Ole Miss students saluting to the Coca-Cola brand and company!

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