An inner-city community gym was an unusual but inspiring setting for a moving meeting last month, as Coca-Cola met with partners from more than 20 European countries to explore ways to motivate more people to be more active, more often.

"Together We Move" was no ordinary conference. Held on a basketball court in a disused school the UK charity Street Games transformed into a thriving community sports hub, the meeting showed the incredible things that can be achieved when like-minded partners work together.

Coca-Cola Europe and an array of active lifestyle organizations have created more than 90 successful programs, helping to get more than 3.5 million people active.

But can partnership and a shared ambition do even more? The message from "Together We Move" was a resounding "yes." Inactivity is one of the most serious social issues in Europe, where only 22 percent of 11 year-old girls and 30 percent of boys meet the daily recommendation for one hour of moderate physical activity. The older children get, the less physically active they become. More people are dying from a lack of exercise than from smoking. 

The power of partnerships

James Quincey

James Quincey

Opening the conference, Coca-Cola Europe Group President James Quincey said collaboration across the Golden Triangle of business, government and civil society is needed to tackle the situation.

“To make a real difference, we must work with partners," he said. "No single food or drink is responsible for the issue of inactivity, and no one organization, government or company can address it alone.”

Speaking to an audience of academics, experts and active lifestyle program organizers, Quincey  added, “You, our partners, bring with you expertise, experience and local knowledge. Coca-Cola also brings something very important – the world’s best-known and best-loved brand. We have the power to reach young people – the next generation – and we want to inspire them to move in a way they are not today. Let’s find ways to work together to achieve something really significant for the people of Europe.”

Movement is Happiness 

Speakers provided compelling evidence about the health benefits of a more active population, including showing how active lifestyles boost well-being and happiness. Nic Marks, founding director of Happiness Works, said happiness and activity form a "virtuous circle" that can be a powerful social tool, broadening our perception of the world, making us more creative and engaged. However, given that 33 percent of British people are so inactive they may as well be asleep, Marks said the challenge we face is daunting.

People exercising

Conference attendees get moving.

The conference also explored the science of behavioral change – how to persuade people to shift their embedded habits and perceptions to make them more active. Nick Stanhope, CEO of We Are What We Do, argued that active and healthy behavior needs to become the new normal by linking it with things that people love, and demand, to do. He said that brands like Coca-Cola, which he said “represents normality,” can play an important role in shifting this mindset.

The Together We Move audience was encouraged to "walk the talk" with a series of activities designed to get their bodies, as well as their minds, moving. Guests enjoyed guided walks between all the venues, collecting points as they went using the Beat The Streets swipe card system. Funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, the global initiative encourages and inspires children to walk to school. Hearts also got pumping with a table tennis tournament and a run around the sites of London.

Inspiring Examples

The two-day conference highlighted some of the biggest active lifestyle programs Coke supports in Europe, including Mission Olympic in Germany, a partnership with the German Olympic Sports Confederation to find Germany’s most active city. Every year, more than 120,000 citizens run, jump, dance, throw and lift to help their town win the coveted title and a €75,000 prize. Delegates also learned about Mission Olympic in the Netherlands, an inter-school, multi-sport contest supported by Coca-Cola and the KVLO, an organization representing Dutch P.E teachers. The highlight of the school sporting calendar gets more than 150,000 students moving per year.

People exercising

The conference highlighted many of the active lifestyle programs Coke supports in Europe.

The conference also focused on the Coca-Cola Cup grassroots football tournament in Spain, run by Coca-Cola and the Royal Spanish Football Association. Together, the partners have boosted the numbers of young people taking part from 20,000 to 100,000 players per season. The Mayor of the French town Les Mureaux also was in London to speak about how Coca-Cola France is helping get young people in his town moving through a national program called "Le Sport Ça Me Dit." Run in partnership with the French Ministry of Sports and French Olympic Committee, it gets nearly 350,000 French citizens active every year.

Insights from other Coca-Cola partnerships in the UK, Poland, Hungary and Canada were also presented. At the end of the conference, the Coca-Cola teams and their European partners shared everything they had learned and brainstormed more than 600 ideas that could turn into new active lifestyle projects in the months and years ahead.

The conference has sparked a lively conversation on social media, especially around #togetherwemove on Twitter. Join the debate and add your thoughts – Together We Move is the start of a journey, and the more who come along the quicker we can all help to get Europe moving.