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A Rockin' Partnership: The History of Coca-Cola and the Rockettes

By:  Meagan Priselac Dec 20, 2013
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When it comes to spreading holiday cheer, these talented dancers really know how to entertain audiences. For more than 85 years the Rockettes have danced their way into the hearts of millions. With their signature eye-high kicks and unparalleled technique, these dancers are a hit as they showcase their remarkable choreography on the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

There are more than 120 Rockettes, but only 80 perform in New York for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Rockettes also bring Christmas to those that can’t make it to the Big Apple with the Christmas Spectacular national touring production. With their Christmas spirit in tow, this year the traveling crew hit the road to perform in Atlanta, West Palm Beach, Tampa and Nashville.

While in Atlanta, the Rockettes paid a special visit to a sponsor they say is special to themCoca-Cola.

Six Rockettes stopped by Coca-Cola headquarters to greet employees, take pictures and celebrate the longstanding partnership between Coca-Cola and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The highly anticipated visit was a treat for more than just Coke employees.

Coca-Cola and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular enjoy a rich partnership,” says Dori Silverman, Coca-Cola Director of Region Marketing in the Northeast.

Unwrapping an ‘Integral Sponsorship’

It’s a partnership that dates back more than 60 years. When it comes to researching the exact date, however, it’s about as hard of a mystery to solve as figuring out how Old Saint Nick makes it to every home in one night.

1958 Rockettes behind stage

From the 1958 April Coca-Cola Refresher: 'Designing and making hundreds of different costumes for girls keeps corps of seamstresses busy.'

The Rockettes originated as the Missouri Rockets in 1925, before calling the Big Apple and Radio City Music Hall home in 1927. Silverman says, “We don’t know if there was ever a time we haven’t been a sponsor, but looking back in the archives, we know it was at least as far back as the 1950s.”

What is known, however, is how integral a role Coca-Cola has played in the history of the Rockettes and vice versa. In 1982, Coca-Cola launched Diet Coke on stage at Radio City Music Hall. The first Diet Coke commercial was also filmed on the Great Stage featuring a crowd-pleasing performance by the Rockettes. Coke mini cans took the spotlight in 2010 with their debut, adding yet another milestone to their rich history together.

But the relationship goes well beyond the glitz and glam.

Silverman says that in addition to “sharing happiness with consumers through the legendary holiday show and product launches” the dynamic duo also offer consumers “special experiences to enjoy the fabulous Rockettes through the great work that we do.”

Making Spirits Bright

When the Rockettes aren’t performing in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, they and Coca-Cola are making spirits bright in other ways. The Rockettes performed 27 shows for their Atlanta audiences at the Cobb Energy Centre. But it was their offstage presence that truly made them shine.

Diving into the Christmas spirit, two Rockettes gave a local Boys and Girls Club the ultimate gift— sharing their passion for dance. The performers taught an hour-long dance class at the MLK Center for Hope in Atlanta as a part of Coca-Cola’s Get the Ball Rolling initiative.

According to an article from the Examiner, the starry-eyed dance students were put through the paces, running “through some of the signature dance moves that have made the Rockettes so world renowned.”

The giving didn’t stop in the classroom. Before leaving the land of Coca-Cola, the Rockettes presented a final token of appreciation.

12 Days of Christmas Rockette Costume

'12 Days of Christmas' costume

On behalf of Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE), the Rockettes donated one of their glamorous costumes to the World of Coca-Cola from the scene “The 12 Days of Christmas.” It was first debuted in 2007 as a part of the Christmas Spectacular’s 75th anniversary at Radio City Music Hall. For spectators and adoring fans, it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Heart and Lights

Unfortunately, the holiday season doesn’t last forever. Each year as Santa flies his sleigh back to the North Pole and the New Year’s Eve ball drops in Times Square, people face the inevitable winter blues—a world no longer filled with candy canes and silver lanes aglow. For the Rockettes, the end of the holiday season means the closing of the final curtain at the Christmas Spectacular.

That is, until now.

MSG Entertainment announced the launch of a brand-new, New York City-themed, live theatrical production at Radio City Music Hall, entitled Heart and Lights. It stars the Rockettes in a way that audiences have never seen them before. The limited, five-week engagement begins previews March 27, 2014 and runs April 3 through May 4. Heart and Lights celebrates the vibrant, infectious energy of New York as seen through the eyes of two cousins, who discover their grandmother’s surprising past by uncovering the secrets of the city she loved.

“I have lived in New York City for more than 40 years, and Heart and Lights is a love letter to this great city,” said Linda Haberman, director and choreographer of Heart and Lights and the Rockettes.

Rockettes with Coke Polar Bear

Rockettes with the Coke Polar Bear

“This production has been more than five years in the making. Our goal is to capture the energy and passion of New York and put it on the Great Stage of Radio City. The Rockettes shine in their starring role, showcasing dynamic choreography that combines jazz, ballet, modern dance and rhythmic tap, but still retains their signature precision technique. Heart and Lights will articulate the Rockettes’ unparalleled artistic range as a dance company.”

The dancing darlings have a long history of wowing fans with their renowned precision dance technique. As they debut the upcoming production, Heart and Lights, the Rockettes are working to keep some traditions alive, including a lasting relationship with Coca-Cola.

5 Fun Facts about Rockettes

1. An Illusion: Rockettes are not all the same height. The tallest dancers are put in the middle to give the illusion that they are.

2. Height Requirements: Rockettes must be between 5’6’’- 5’10 ½‘’ tall.

3. Must be 18 to Dance: Rockettes must be at least 18 years old.

4. Before the Big Apple: The Rockettes were originally called The Missouri Rockets in St. Louis before performing at Radio City Music Hall in 1927.

5. Coca-Cola in the Spotlight: The Coca-Cola billboard in Times Square is featured in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular as a sleigh flies through the city.

Read an exclusive interview with a Radio City Rockette.

Sounds of the Season