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Coca Cola and Santa Claus

Updated on April 10, 2014

Early American Santa

Santa Claus evolved from St. Nicholas, who was popular with early Dutch settlers. Over the years the American version of St Nicholas grew to be Santa Claus.

Washington Irving wrote about St. Nicholas in his satirical history of New York. His creation delivered toys each year, he flew in a wagon. St. Nicholas lay his finger beside his nose and gave a nod just before leaving. This passage was very popular and when Dr. Clement Clark Moore wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas many years ago, his St. Nicholas also made the gesture.

1931 First Print Ad

1936 Billboard

Clement Moore's Santa

Moore’s St. Nicholas was a sleigh instead of a wagon and a reindeer instead of the earlier horse. But he still delivered toys on Christmas Eve. What the 2 St. Nicholas’s had in common is that they were rather tiny, and elf-like.

By the 1860’s, most people were mispronouncing St. Nicholas as Santa Claus and that name stuck. Santa was widely used in advertising, he was ubiquitous on advertising trade cards. But his clothing varied widely in color and type.

1938 AD

Santa and Sprite

Start of Association with Coca Cola

Santa was now human sized, but what proportions? Many illustrations of Santa show him tall and thin, like Uncle Sam. But some showed him plump and short and Thomas Nast’s illustrations are the ones that stuck. The popular cartoonist drew him Santa to resembled the Jolly old Elf in Moore’s poem.

So now Santa was now plump, jolly and delivered toys on Christmas Eve. But he was still mostly a literary or pen and ink drawing. It took one company to bring Santa Claus to life in living color, with a red suit and rosy cheeks. And that was Coca Cola. You probably see their TV ads every year but you might not realize that Coca Cola has a long history with Santa.

1951 SANTA

1964 AD

2010 Santa Coca Cola Commercial

1950's Ad

1947 AD

Haddon Sundblom

Artist Haddon Sundblom started creating yearly Coca Cola ads featuring Santa in 1931. He invented the bright-red suit, oversize belt buckle, ample belly and rosy cheeks. Now his conception of Santa is universal. He created yearly ads into the 1960’s and they were extremely popular and profitable for the company.

Once television came around, Santa and Coca Cola ended up on the small screen most years, and these ads are also very popular. Through the years, Coca Cola has had other stars in their Christmas ads, but they always come back to Santa Claus. Most years there are Christmas ornaments and other Christmas decorations available. Santa Claus is a fine example of an advertising gimmick that has taken a life on of its own. To be fair, Coca Cola didn't invent Santa, but they definitely improved upon him.

2013 Coca Cola ad


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