SBJ/November 10 - 16, 2003/Forty Under 40

Bea Perez

With the exception of being allowed to take a sabbatical to pursue one of her dream jobs of becoming a Broadway star or a professional photographer, Bea Perez sees herself as a "lifer" at the Coca-Cola Co.

Bea Perez
Coca-Cola North America
“She’s a people person and she approaches things with a sense of humility. She doesn’t come in with the arrogance of her position and she doesn’t come in in a threatening way. She’s able to get people to work together, and if she feels that we’re not gaining traction or not moving something, she’ll stop the process and she’ll make sure that everybody understands the end game, the end goal. … Bottom line: She’s great. She’s awesome.”
Dick Sullivan, executive vice president
of marketing, Atlanta Falcons
“When you say Bea, I think style. She’s got the most incredible style in this sport. It’s never about the deal when you talk to Bea. It’s never about the rights fees or the deal points. We always end every conversation, every negotiation, with her saying, ‘Brett, is this good for NASCAR? If it’s good for NASCAR, it’s good for Coke.’ It’s the most amazing thing. We don’t discuss money on the front end. If it’s good for NASCAR and good for Coke, we’ll find a way to make it work [financially]. She’s the consummate professional. Everyone loves her.”
— Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing, NASCAR
“She’s moved through the Coke organization because of her talent and ability. From a client side she understands the brand, understands the business and is very focused on delivering against the objectives. She’s very fair but also very demanding — not in a pejorative sense but in a good sense.”
— Chris Weil, chairman and CEO, Momentum Worldwide
"It's in my veins. I could not imagine leaving," she said. "If I did, it would be because I'm retiring 30 years down the road."

In the meantime, Perez wants to continue to leave her mark working for one of the top brands in the country.

"I think it's really important to create legacies," Perez said. "I really feel that a sign of true leadership is when you move onto a new role and you leave something behind, that [that something] stays just as successful or becomes more successful because of the foundation you created."

In under 10 years, Perez has jumped from working on Coke's Hispanic Initiatives, to motorsports marketing, and now to overseeing all of the company's North American sports properties.

She has left her mark on programs such as Coca-Cola Football Town USA, an interactive fan festival designed to further connect fans to football and Coke products, and the Coca-Cola Racing Family, an integrated program that features some of NASCAR's most popular drivers and has grown every year since its inception in February 1998. The Coca-Cola Racing Family, in fact, is one of the company's longest-standing marketing platforms for sports.

Earlier this year, Perez began her next legacy-in-the-making when she spearheaded the company's deal with LeBron James and its Sprite and Powerade brands, in what was one of the first times the company has used an athlete in a multiple-brand platform.

"Bea, because of her knowledge of the intricacies of brand strategies and the way we go to market and her understanding of LeBron and the wealth of things he had to offer, was again able to structure a deal that made so much sense," said Katie Bayne, senior vice president for integrated marketing at Coke. "It's a business enhancement and enlargement deal versus a swap of money for a set of associations."

According to those she works with, Perez's success lies with her ability to create programs that make sense for all sides.

"She wants to build our brand as much as she does her own, and that's unique," said Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing for NASCAR. "She starts off a negotiation with that. 'How can I help you build your brand?' It's a refreshing approach, and I think she gets more as a result of it. You really get that true sense of partnership."

In fact, Perez has such a good grasp on the business that earlier this year she was put in charge of a new and secretive initiative dubbed Access.

Access programs will be new marketing platforms that find ways to use the strengths and assets of the company in programs that ultimately benefit the consumers and give them one-of-a-kind access, via Coke brands, Perez said.

"It's about how you bring more value to the consumer and create more value for partners and wire it all together to give the consumer more," she said.

The fact that Perez has intuitively grasped the concept of Access "in every deal she approaches" was why she was tapped to oversee that effort, Bayne said.

Pilot programs for Access are under way in undisclosed locations and are expected to be unveiled sometime next year.

More than likely those Access programs will be more to add to Perez's legacy at Coke.

"What I really hope is that as I leave my mark, on the Coca-Cola Racing Family and eventually on the LeBron program, that everyone looks back and says, 'Wow, that's an incredible success,'" Perez said. "I don't really care if they remember that Bea Perez was involved. I really care that they remember that Sprite and LeBron and Powerade had a connection, that the Coca-Cola Racing Family existed because it was able to bring something unique to consumers.

"That to me is what I look forward to, continuing to find those areas where I can add value based on the experiences I've had in the company."

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