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Santa Claus and Coca-Cola

Is Santa Claus red & white due to a Coca-Cola marketing campaign?


Who is Santa Claus?

Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas or simply Santa, is a globally recognized figure. As we all know, he delivers gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. Santa is commonly illustrated as a slightly plump, jolly old fellow with a white beard and sometimes spectacles. He wears a red coat with white collars and cuffs, red trousers and a red hat, with a black belt and long boots. Agreed?


Who created the red-suited Santa? 

There is commonly known fact… or urban myth, that Coca-Cola created the red-suited Santa. This is what the people working in Coca-Cola say:

“We do not claim the color of Santa’s coat, though it has worked out quite well for us since red is so closely related to Coca-Cola! But we did not come up with the idea of putting Santa in red clothes.”

In fact, the person behind Red-suited Santa Claus was political cartoonist Thomas Nast who drew on Moore’s poem, to create a Santa that was a small elf-like figure, and a keen supporter of the Union. Nast continued to draw Santa for 30 years, changing the color of his coat to the red he’s known for today. His cartoons, regularly appeared in Harper’s Weekly. 


Why is Santa associated with Coca-Cola then?

If Coca-Cola has nothing to do with Santa’s red suit then why do people associate him with Coca-Cola? It is not just because the brand has the same color as Santa Claus. Also, they have been featuring him in their advertisements since the 1920s. They helped to create a modernized and new age Santa Claus and helped shape the image of him. The way we see him today with a white beard is actually from Coca-Cola.

Before these ads, Santa was shown in various forms – sometimes as a scary elf! He has worn a bishop’s robe and a Norse huntsman’s animal skin. Occasionally, he was a stern, wizened goblin-type creation. However, Coca-Cola introduced a more friendly, human image of Santa in December 1931. 


The Coca-Cola Santa

In the 1920s, The Coca-Cola Company began to promote soft drink consumption for the winter holidays in U.S. magazines. The first Coke ads with Santa featured a rather strict-looking Claus. In 1930, Coca-Cola featured a painting by Fred Mizen, showing a department store Santa impersonator, drinking a bottle of Coke amid a crowd of shoppers and their children. The advert was so successful, that Coca-Cola then hired Haddon Sundblom as their illustrator to create advertising images featuring Santa Claus. 

As Coca-Cola grew more popular, their ads spread further around the world, Sundblom’s Santa Claus became more famous each season, and in more and more countries. Like a good translation – the new image usurped the older representations. The character became so recognizable all over the globe that the Coca-Cola Company and Haddon Sundblom signed a partnership that would last for decades. Over 33 years, Haddon Sundblom painted numerous different versions of the Coca-Cola Santa.

Sundblom modeled Santa’s face on his friend, Lou Prentiss, a retired salesman. He used to say, “He embodied all the features and spirit of Santa Claus. The wrinkles in his face were happy wrinkles.” After Prentiss passed away, Sundblom continued to use his face as the reference for painting his image of Santa Claus.

So perhaps Mr Claus’ real name, is Santa Lou!


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