New Coke & 2014

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Today’s post courtesy of Antonio Mora . . .

In 1985, before all our junior players were born and when many of their parents were young enough to be junior players themselves, the Coca-Cola Company took what has been referred to as the greatest marketing risk in consumer goods history.  The company changed the formula for Coca-Cola, the world’s most popular soft drink, the first significant change in its formula in 99 years.

The development of what everyone ended up calling “New Coke” was a long and secret process that even had a code name, “Project Kansas.”  The company’s most senior executives launched the effort, hoping to find a new “champion” for the company and reverse years of decline in Coke’s market share.  By the early 1980s, Pepsi had become the best-selling soft drink among young Americans and Coke found itself suddenly in the unfamiliar position of not comfortably dominating the soft drink market.

“Project Kansas” and Coke executives chose to compete with Pepsi by drastically changing what was arguably the world’s greatest brand.  Their huge mistake?  They failed to consider their customers and Coke drinkers’ loyalty to the “real thing.”  The outcry from Coca-Cola’s customers and its bottlers was immediate and “New Coke” turned into a marketing disaster amid public protests and boycotts.  At first, Coke executives considered slightly “tweaking” the formula of their new drink, to make it more similar to traditional Coke.  Cooler heads prevailed and, only 79 days after “New Coke’s” debut, the company reintroduced the old formula and started selling it as “Coca-Cola Classic.”  It was the most spectacular about-face in American corporate history, bigger than Ford turning its back on the Edsel.  My old boss, Peter Jennings, interrupted regular programming on ABC to report the breaking news.  On the floor of the U.S. Senate, Democratic Senator David Pryor of Arkansas called Coke’s reversal a “meaningful moment in the history of America.”  Trust me, I’m not making this up.

It was certainly a meaningful moment in Coca-Cola’s history.  The company’s sales numbers soared, “New Coke” soon disappeared and “Coca-Cola Classic” went back to being plain “Coca-Cola.”  Within a few years, Pepsi became an also-ran in the soft drink wars, and today, both Coke and Diet Coke outsell Pepsi.

The parallels between “New Coke” and the USTA’s 2014 changes to the junior competitive schedule are pretty obvious.  Well-intentioned USTA executives launched the effort, trying to find a new “formula” to develop American champions and reverse years of decline in US tennis fortunes on the world stage.  The USTA’s effort may not have had a code name, but the process was long, a lot of hard work was involved, and it was secret.  Like Coca-Cola, the USTA didn’t fully consider the reaction of its customers and faces a huge public outcry.  As Coca-Cola executives did at first, USTA officials are considering just “tweaking” their new “formula,” instead of fully reconsidering their decision.  The big question, of course, is whether USTA officials will learn from the past, acknowledge the overwhelming opposition to their new “formula,” have the courage to stand up to internal pressure and reverse course, starting a new process that will be more inclusive of its customers’ wishes.

19 thoughts on “New Coke & 2014

  1. Wow, how incredibly accurate and relevant this is! Coke executives left their ego’s at the door and decided to listen to their product users. Does anyone think it is possible that the USTA could impart some of this wisdom and follow the desires of the tennis industry? Or are they going to continue to think that they know better than everyone? Only a single digit percentage of people in junior tennis want any part of these changes. I wrote my section president. I hope everyone reading this wrote to theirs.

  2. Great post Antonio. There’s only one minor flaw in the Analogy – Coca-Cola actually wanted to sell more Coke. I think USTA want to provide less tennis. It’s not clear to me that the JCC wouldn’t consider New Coke a success.

    1. Not posting my name. I am not looking to get on a radio show to debate or make a name for myself on the web………..

      I said i was not going to post on this site again , but this comparison to New Coke is way off base. You do not understand the Coke strategy. It was all a marketing plan from the beginning. And it worked!!!!!!! They were not interested in selling New Coke. They used New Coke to get consumers thinking about the Coke brand. It was Classic Coke they were pushing toward the future. And Classic Coke rules to this day. I am not for or against the new 2014 Changes, there is good and bad to it. For the people 100% against the new rule changes, this type of off base comparison does not help.

      1. Its all clear to me now…the USTA Junior Competition committee has been abducted by Aliens…and replaced by golfers, intent on destroying Tennis…well, thats one explanation…

        However, I am firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor(a variation of Occam’s razor), “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.

        Because of this I do not attribute any of the the junior competition committees decisions to malice. Well, at least not most of the time. If Brewer is involved, I’m on the fence.

  3. Outstanding article, great analogy. One that even the youngest player can relate to for everyone well knows Coca Cola. Hard for me to believe that USTA execs would turn their back to those who MAKE USTA exist!

  4. Lisa, Antonio

    Last night I sat down and listened to the Monday radio show w Geoff, Marty, Antonio .
    Listening to Marty, reminds me of every USTA volunteer, he is just repeating what someone has told him at some Sectional meeting. These people are drinking the Kool-aid.

    This morning I spent some time looking up all the 10 under tournaments here in Florida, since January 1st, this year. Granted this is not a large sample….but after looking at the numbers….I’m really afraid this was a bad investment??? I am shocked how low????

    1/12 Gainesville 7 participants 1g/6b
    1/26 Tallahassee 3 participants 1g/2b. FSU Mens Coach D Hultquist Daughter
    1/26 Sarasota 10 participants 3g/7b
    1/26 Plantation Frank Veltri Tennis Center one of the largest in Florida
    27 participants 15 g/ 12b.
    2/02 Jacksonville 2 participants 0g/2b
    2/09 Gainesville Jones Tennis Center largest public 17 participants 6g/11b
    2/09 Sarasota ROGY red/orange ball 9 participants 2g/7b
    2/09 Weston ROGY red/orange cancelled no one signed up???
    2/16 Miami ROGY CUP 8 participants 2g10/ 5b10. 0g8/1b8

    Are those good numbers????

    I remember when Florida had normal 10s… And the draws where never this small.
    Second, I have coached a lot of families… Where a younger family member would play in the 10s…cause big brother or sister was playing in a older age division. I don’t see this anymore. Many of our super series and locals don’t have 10s.

    Tell me what is going on here?? Several weeks ago I was at a Super Series held in Tampa,
    At a large public facility, where the four main hard courts were turned into short courts for 10s. No 10s… No one using them… No kids playing on them… On a weekend… Beautiful weather. Other divisions had nice draws….great level!

    Maybe not enough money has been spent?? Someone help me?..
    I need some of the Kool-aid everyone is drinking.

    Please help ?
    Scott Dei

    1. btw, on a related topic, one thing that Marty was badly confused about on the Radio Show about was about 12 and under competition under ITF and Tennis Europe. Yes, I believe he is right that they eliminated rankings for 12 and under, but they have not eliminated, or even reduced, tournaments or competition. Population adjusted their are still more than 10 times the number of inter-European opportunities for European under 12 players than there are inter sectional opportunities for Americans.

      That doesn’t mean national organizations are not keeping a close eye on how their players do, they are just not publishing a list with numbers next to the names. There is still a full order of magnitude more competition available.

  5. Scott, you can go and compare the entries in the same tournaments from year to year (2011-2012 and now from 2011 to early 2013) and the plunge in Florida 10s’ tournament play, as I said yesterday, is shocking. Not having 10-and-under rankings, in my opinion, is the biggest issue, followed by the elimination of all 10s sectionals (except for the state closed singles and doubles tournaments) and the four-game scoring. There is simply nothing to “earn” for competitive kids.

    Most depressing was the turnout at the state doubles tournament. It always had a healthy turnout of the top kids in the state, especially in the boys’ division. This year, ZERO girls signed up and only five boys’ teams did, only one from outside the area where the tournament was being played. Very sad.

    1. None of this surprises me. In our section, 10’s tournament play has been completely eliminated and I think this is the eventual objective in other sections. Instead, there are ‘play days’ scheduled for the 10’s where they have 15 minute timed matches, with a round robin format, scores are not recorded, etc. Basically, they don’t want 10’s “competing”. Everybody is a winner! Only trophy is for sportsmanship.

      In any case this reminds me of one of Wayne Brian letters where he said the USTA has built a one mile bridge over a two mile river. 10 and under wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it were 8 and under.

      They are trying to model this after other sports but have just plain missed the mark. My son played baseball and yes, at six, seven and eight, they hit off tees, don’t keep score, everybody gets to hit, coach pitch, no steal, etc. but by 9 or 10 it’s kids pitching, score keeping, playoffs, etc.

      My son just turned ten and is playing 12 challengers(maybe referred to as satellite in your sections) but some of his friends are losing interest becuase they are forced to play green and orange ball play days and it just doesn’t have the intensity they can get playing baseball, football, basketball, soccer or . Believe me, when your kid thinks tennis is more boring than baseball you are in trouble.

  6. The 10 and unders in Southern California have virtually evaporated. The draws are so small and they are just not any fun. There aren’t enough kids playing to really even call it a tennis circuit.

    We need to be marketing tennis a lot more. What we are doing is certainly not working in Southern California.

  7. Love to see Lew Brewer checking his ego at the door.

    One of two things that will never happen.

    The other, his proposed system of producing a USA champ.

    Nothing good, in the long run, happens to vindictive people.

    Enjoy your ride, and I truly somebody throws you a good retirement party. Sycophants come and more easily go.

  8. Why did the USTA make these changes?
    With the expectation that the new 10 and under initiative will be successful and create a significantly larger pool of junior players from diverse backgrounds, and to prepare an appropriate national tournament structure and rating/ranking system for the future which:
    • is affordable and will ensure that competitive tennis opportunities are available for all American juniors regardless of their
    economic circumstances and where they reside;
    • supports the importance of a traditional American education and does not require students to short-change their academic
    careers; and,
    • creates an environment to generate a base of more and better American junior players to fill the ranks of collegiate programs
    and for the most outstanding of these become potential future American professional champions

    I have a question of these 3…really 4 bullet points, which will come true?
    Honestly ??? If the 2014 changes go thru… The only possible outcome I can see coming true …. Is a future champion!!!! You know why??? It’s not the USTA…. It’s the crop of 14- 15 years olds this country has right now!!! They might save the USTA… They are that good!

    But…. Everything else will be leveraged !!!! 10 n under tennis will be dead! College tennis will have the same amount of foreigners…..if not more…..More money will be spent playing ITF junior tournaments. The Caribbean ITFs will flourish!!!! Just Watch!!!

    The ITF Juniors are more transparent…. There is no agenda… No extravagant amount of wild cards……instead of traveling to Midland… Or Waco…..or. ..Columbus… It will be Puerto Rico .. Dominica Republic…etc ..etc.

    This is what my crystal ball is telling me….

    Thank god for the Kozlovs, Mmoh, Stewarts , and Blacks…. You guys can do it!!!! You can save everything.

  9. I am so glad to find this page. As the parent of a new player who is 10, and has been doing well and having loads of fun for 2 years, we were left all of a sudden baffled by these changes, Where’s the tournaments? What is all this 10 and under stuff? Why does the USTA all of a sudden think that a 10 year old can’t compete or hit a yellow ball in a full court? Have you ever seen a 10 year old hockey player. or soccer? They will knock the do do out of a ten year old playing with ROG balls. To us this is all insane. We have sat idle for weeks because all of a sudden there are no junior tournaments in our area of South Florida. Nuts!

    1. John, welcome to the madness, lol! Hope you’ll tune into my radio show March 25th – we’ll be discussing what’s happening with ROG and what parents can do in the meantime.

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