Correction to This Article
Because of incorrect information provided by a representative of the Passion Group marketing company, a March 28 article said that condoms were placed in rooms at the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort in Panama City Beach, Fla., as part of a promotional effort for spring break. The company distributes condoms at some hotels, but not at the SunSpree Resort.

An Ocean Of Promotion

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 28, 2007

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. -- The sand is white, the water is blue-green, and the nation's college students are celebrating the proud rites of spring as they always have, with Keystone Light and wet T-shirt contests. What more could they possibly need?

More. So much more.

Behold, the marketers of spring break have descended, transforming the beach into a corporate wonderland. There's a Geico gaming tent and a Neutrogena spa, and the Trojan booth offers pina-colada-scented oxygen you can inhale through a tube. There's free mouthwash and chewing tobacco, free sunblock and tampons, and after a free massage, you can make a delightful lunch out of Jack Link's beef jerky and 180 energy drink. So very free!

Look: Here are two attractive fellows carrying rakes. They're part of a promotion for the Venus Breeze razor and their purpose is to help young women find comfortable spots in the sand.

"Can we rake the sand for you?" one of them asks.

Oh yes, darling. Yes, you may.

* * *

As many as 300,000 breakers will have descended on this stretch of beach by the end of spring break in early April. As they depart, they take with them bags and bags of branded loot, as well as fond memories of bikini dance contests and at least one mayonnaise-eating competition.

Some folks might believe that youthful revelry occurs naturally, the way rocks are slowly worn down to sand, but it turns out that's not true. During spring break, at least, lusty excess must be carefully planned. Who makes the machinery of this annual celebration turn, bringing in the hot salesgirls and organizing events overseen by bawdy emcees? Who schedules a "J-Lo Booty Shakin' Contest" to promote a new perfume?

The marketers, that's who.

Look over there! As part of a "Sand Castle Demolition" contest, a squirming heap of spring breakers are scrambling for bottles of Vitamin Water hidden in the sand. They emerge with sand all over their chins.

And another day -- glance toward the sky! Above the Venus Breeze banners floating proudly on the wind, above the Def Leppard wailing from the speakers ( pour some sugar on maaay), a lone parachuter spins and spirals across the sky, spewing a majestic trail of red smoke. Then there are more parachuters, and more, all members of the Army's Golden Knights, trailing yellow parachutes that say ARMY. The spring breakers gather around and squint up, watching the golden creatures float to the sand like gods.


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