How Coca-Cola Shaped the Image of the Modern Santa Claus
It's a classic Christmas image; a jolly man in a red suit who chuckles into his big white beard and spreads Christmas joy. The simple mention of a Santa Claus brings a smile to the faces of children everywhere and ignites fond nostalgia for many today - and it seems unbelievable that Coca-Cola had the biggest hand in creating the modern-day image of Santa Claus. The history of Santa Claus, at least for nearly a hundred years, owes a lot to the Coca-Cola brand.
The Holiday season and the Coca-Cola brand seem very intertwined, as their adverts have become synonymous with Christmas. Coca-Cola began boosting their brand awareness during the 1920 Christmas season, where a very stern looking Santa Claus graced the page of the Saturday Evening Post. However, it wasn't until 1930 that American artist Haddon Sundblom painted the well-known image of a department-store Santa in a crowd drinking a bottle of Coca-Cola for their advertisement campaigns.
In Coca-Cola's 1931 Christmas ad, Santa Claus was depicted as THE man himself, not as someone dressed as Santa. While a prevailing theory is that Coca-Cola dressed Santa Claus in red and white to fit with their brand and logo - the infamous white writing on a red background - the company claimed this to be untrue. From there, Coca-Cola kept going with the stories of Santa Claus, from handing out lavish toys and taking a break with a refreshing Coke to riding in a sleigh while sipping on a bottle of Coca-Cola. Ads even featured polar bears living next door to Santa Claus having a jolly time sliding down snow banks with a bottle of Coca-Cola.
While the artist who created the Santa Claus image for Coca-Cola painted his final version in 1964, Coca-Cola continues to create advertisements and spread Christmas cheer based on his depiction of the jolly man in the red suit, laughing into the night sky "Ho! Ho! Ho!"