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U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, keynoting the Republican Party of Texas convention in Fort Worth, linked pride in Texas and Wisconsin, his home state, telling delegates on June 9, 2012: "I remember reading a few years ago a story about how Coca-Cola did this big, exhaustive marketing study about how people love their states. First place: Texas. Second place: Wisconsin."
We sought the skinny on that.
By email, Ryan campaign spokesman Kevin Seifert replied: "Ryan's statement is fairly straightforward, Wisconsinites and Texans both love and are proud of their home states."
Seifert also pointed us to an entry on the website of Worthpoint, which provides market data on art, antiques and collectibles including soda paraphernalia. The entry states that national focus groups run by Coca-Cola once found that Wisconsin and Texas natives most strongly identify with their states, and by a wide margin. Also, the entry says, Wisconsin and Texas were the only states the Coca-Cola company allowed to develop logos and advertising lines tying each state to the brand and the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Wisconsin "developed this program and used it for most of the decade of the nineties."
Responding to our inquiry, a Worthpoint representative, Nathan Trapuzzano, pointed out by telephone that the online entry is a copy of a December 2006 eBay post related to the completed auction of a Coca-Cola jacket. "By putting it on our website, we’re not saying every word here is true," Trapuzzano said.
We asked eBay to elaborate. By email, spokeswoman Kari Ramirez said eBay could not provide information on the person who posted that information.
We also reached out to the Coca-Cola Company. Spokeswoman Kerry Tressler said that while the company's internal search for such a study came up dry, it is "likely possible that the study took place."
In a follow-up email, Tressler said: "We launched a grassroots marketing effort in the early 1990s called ‘Coca-Cola Texas’ with a similar program in Wisconsin. Given the size and scope of that type of program, it is highly likely there was a marketing study at the time to validate the points of these campaigns."
An online Nexis search led us to a Feb. 25, 1992, press release about Coca-Cola launching the Texas campaign, the "most comprehensive marketing initiative ever focusing on a single state." Separately, Seifert alerted us to a May 11, 1992, press release saying that up to 10 different radio spots would air in Wisconsin that year featuring a fictitious Coca-Cola truck driver touring the state to discover what "Wisconsin Proud" is all about. The release calls the campaign an extension of Coca-Cola’s "Wisconsin Proud" theme introduced, mainly on billboards, in 1989.
We came up with nothing more potentially related to Ryan’s claim. You might say: That. Is. It.
We count on individuals who air claims to have factual backup. On this front, an unattributed eBay post about focus groups is insufficient. And while it’s believable that Coca-Cola ad campaigns launched 20 years ago drew on research, that does not demonstrate there was an exhaustive national study like the one described by Ryan.
Ryan's claim still strikes us as having a touch of truth. As prideful Texans, we’re hat-in-hand sorry to rate this claim Mostly False.
Email, Kevin Seifert, communications director, Paul Ryan campaign, June 12, 2012
Telephone interview, Nathan Trapuzzano, customer care representative, Worthpoint, Columbus, Ohio, June 21, 2012
Email, Kari Ramirez, spokesperson, Global Communications, eBay Inc., June 21, 2012
Emails (excerpted), responses to PolitiFact Texas, Kerry Tressler, director, Brand & Business Communications, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta, June 14, 2012 and June 19, 2012
Press releases, Coca-Cola campaigns in Texas and Wisconsin, February 25, 1992 and May 11, 1992 (Nexis search and pointed out by Seifert)
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