The wheels of Corliss Denmark’s grocery cart turned slower heading toward cosmetics.
Her gait eased up so she could take in the Coca-Cola display at the front of the Kroger on Pio Nono Avenue.
Laid out on the floor before her was a gridiron of soft drink cartons.
“I think it’s great. I think it’s beautiful,” said Denmark. “It’s lined up like a real football field.”
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It is only fraction of the size of a real field, with about 16 feet of Sprite boxes for the turf and a white stripe of Diet Dr. Pepper at the “50” yard line.
Black Coke Zero boxes mark the goal line and sidelines.
At both ends of the field, a long pedestal of red Coke 12-packs anchors a Fanta Orange wall spelling “Mercer” and “Bears” in squares of black Coke Zero. Rows of water bottles on top represent lights.
Down one of the sidelines, staggered cases of Powerade are stacked like stands, and a row of folding lawn chairs stretches down the opposite side.
Two-liter bottles of Fanta are the Bears playing an unnamed Coke team.
Coke district sales manager Neal Haslem said Kroger’s new store manager wanted to show appreciation for Mercer University students shopping at the market.
“Also, he wanted to do something to tie in the community and the college and this was one way of doing it,” Haslem said.
Haslem huddled his team of local account managers who designed it one morning and built it in about four and a half hours.
“I think it represents the commitment Kroger has to the community, and it represents what Mercer means to us in the community as a local college,” he said.
Former Mercer student Daren Lewis is the account manager for that store.
“This being a store that a lot of the Mercer students frequent, it was a no-brainer that we would do something to kinda reflect our pride in what they do, and show our spirit behind the football team,” Lewis said.
The end zone is his favorite part of the display.
“I like how the Fanta orange flows and it shows the school colors,” Lewis said. “It’s almost as real life as you can get it, you know, building it with sodas. A lot of people may not know how difficult it is to lay these things out and build it.”
Don’t even think about grabbing the carton in the middle.
“We have it secured very good. It won’t move,” Haslem said. “It’s very locked in. We have it double-taped, triple-taped.”
There’s plenty of other beverages you can purchase surrounding the field, so don’t be tempted to grab one of the two-liter players.
“This part of the field is the kickoff, the start of the game,” said Willie Miller, another Coke account manager who worked on the display.
“Just like the kickoff and the season start for the Mercer Bears is going to be a big excitement and a big event.”
Account manager Kenny Ellington said the display turned out much better than he thought, and has gotten hundreds of likes on social media.
“The response has been crazy,” Ellington said.
Haslem expected the display to really turn heads, become a backdrop for selfies and the subject of tweets now that students are returning to campus.
“There’s been a lot of excitement for the second year of the Mercer football team,” Haslem said.
That fever has spread to Denmark, who mentioned that her son coaches football in Putnam County, as she headed back to shopping.
“I love Mercer football,” she said. “I’ve got to get over to one of the games.”
Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday for the Bears’ season opener against Reinhardt at 7 p.m. Aug. 28. Reserved seating is $12 and general admission is $8 and can be purchased online at tickets.mercer.edu or by calling the Mercer Ticket Office at 478-301-5470.