But beyond his personal consumption of the fizzy beverage, Trump should — in theory — have the power to organize a boycott of Coke at his family business’ properties. Over the last two weeks, CNN reporters embarked on a mission to test that thesis.
And despite what the former president said, he doesn’t appear to have taken any action to stop vendors at properties that are actually named for him from serving Coca-Cola products. At Doral, the CNN reporter spotted a case of Diet Coke bottles opened and ready for use behind the eponymous Donald J. Trump ballroom. At the otherwise empty bar of DJT restaurant inside Trump’s Las Vegas hotel, a CNN reporter was served a Coke on April 14 without any hesitation. (In the souvenir shop nearby another CNN employee couldn’t help but notice a fridge stuffed with Coca-Cola products including not just the namesake brand, plus Sprite and Fanta, but also juices from its Minute-Maid line, right near a bunch of bottles of Trump wine.)
Staff at Trump golf clubs in New York, Charlotte and Washington D.C. reached by phone also said they were still serving Coke.
And on April 8, a reporter ordered a Diet Coke and a kale salad for lunch at the Jean-Georges Nougatine restaurant at the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York City and was served both, no questions asked, by hospitable waitstaff. The restaurant is not owned by the Trump Organization — and the Trump Organization likely has no say in what sodas it does or does not serve — but the hotel has no bar or room service of its own and, according to its website, provides food and beverages from Nougatine to any guests who do want room service.
It is possible that Trump properties can’t dump Coke because they are contractually obligated to offer it.
Robb Seltzer, director of food and beverage operations at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida, said in an email that soft drink suppliers commonly provide equipment, marketing and support to large hotel and food service providers in exchange for companies to serve their products. Once this is done, it is difficult for a company to switch suppliers because it causes a major disruption in service, he said.
Asked by CNN whether it was dumping any of the offending company’s drinks, the Trump Organization did not respond to comment. A representative for Jean-Georges also did not respond to a request to comment.
We’ll be the first to admit this isn’t the most serious investigative reporting we’ve ever done. But the hypocrisy of Trump calling on people who trust him to shun Coke while continuing to sell its drinks at Trump properties should not be taken lightly. Trump remains the most important figure in the Republican Party and has the ability to influence who his base votes for, how they shop — and, in some cases, how they direct their anger.
Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School who studies brands and leadership, said, “We should take Trump’s boycott seriously because of the growing power of social media.” Such boycotts can gain steam on Facebook and other platforms and impact brands’ reputations, he noted.
Americus Reed, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who studies consumer behavior, said that Coke likely anticipated that there would be backlash to its decision to speak out against the Georgia legislation.
It’s a tricky dance for a brand, but there could ultimately be some business upside in it for the soda maker: Reed expects that the customers Coke will gain from its position to outweigh any impact from a Trump-led boycott.
Some people will now drink Coke, he said, because the company is seen as “against voter suppression. And that’s a very powerful thing.”
CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan and Lucy Kafanov contributed to this article.