By Jacob Baynham
If Collin Brum has a knack for planning big events, it’s a skill he first developed during his college days. As chairman of special events for the Student Activities Council, the entrepreneurial studies and marketing major convinced the likes of Ben Folds, Talib Kweli, Jason Mraz, Guster and other top musicians to headline concerts on campus. “It gave me a nice foundation for my career,” he says. Indeed.
A hop, skip and five years later, Brum is now in London, hard at work planning a Coca-Cola brand pavilion for the 2012 Olympics. His lips are sealed to the specifics, but he says, “London 2012 is going to be a Games like no other.”
This isn’t Brum’s first Olympic experience. His journey began in China in 2008, two years after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business. The ad agency he was working for landed a contract with Nike to put together an event launching the release of their retro Olympic clothing line. The event was meant to recreate 1984, the year China competed in the Olympics for the first time as a communist country.
Brum spent eight weeks in China planning the show. “I always found it funny that they asked an American born in 1984 to create a culturally relevant event for the Chinese reminding them of what it felt like to be in China circa 1984,” he says.
But Brum obviously proved his mettle, because two years later he was assigned to a team responsible for designing the “Coca-Cola Happiness House” at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. The 8,600-square-foot pavilion took three months to set up and during the 18 days of the Olympics received 135,000 visitors. The idea was to create an experience that highlighted Coke’s sponsorship of the Games and its efforts to promote recycling.
Brum’s most memorable contribution was the idea for a whiz-bang recycling mechanism that used a vacuum tube system like those at drive-through banks. He found a way to retrofit the system to accept Coke bottles and installed the interactive recycling gizmo at the end of the pavilion. Visitors placed their Coke bottle into the machine, pressed a button and watched it shoot up and travel through a series of swirly tubes until finally landing in the recycling bin.
It won top marks for Brum, and for Coke, which earned a prestigious award for best brand pavilion. With this Olympic-sized
success under his belt, Brum has his sights set on Sochi, Russia, in winter 2014.