As almost everyone in the U.S. knows (except some of my staff, I’ve learned!), the professional football championship is this Sunday. Here in Atlanta, we are getting ready to advertise during the big game again. This week I want to talk a bit about our past ads – and hopefully will be able to give you some exclusives on my blog as we get closer to Sunday.
One of our ads, the 1979 spot showing “Mean” Joe Greene throwing his jersey to a kid in a football stadium, is consistently voted one of the favorite – if not THE favorite – Big Game ads of all time. And I’d have to agree.
The ad shows the kind of “hero worship” a lot of us grow up with. In this ad, the kid (Tommy Okon in real life) gives Greene a Coke, really insisting that he take it. Only at the end does Greene, a fierce defensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers, toss him his jersey as a thanks.
What’s interesting about this ad – arguably Coke’s most famous football championship commercial – is that it did not actually make its debut during the game! The ad actually first aired in the fall of 1979, months before the big game. That said, it was shown during the 1980 game, and that’s why we all tend to connect the two.
The ad was hugely popular from the start, sparking a surge of letters to the Company (in the days before email and blogs, of course!). The ad even led to a made-for-TV movie! Coca-Cola followed the ad up with a promotion to "Win the Shirt off My Back," giving away thousands of replica jerseys as prizes. And, since we know a good thing when we see it, we repeated the ad's concept in various parts of the world. Brazil, Argentina and Thailand all produced versions of the commercial following the same plot line but featuring renowned local football (soccer) players instead.
I still hear from people all the time who remember the “Mean” Joe ad and can’t wait to see it at the World of Coca-Cola.
More on Journey
- The Story of Frank O'Hara's ‘Having a Coke With You’ Poem
- Primary Color: Why Sprite Has Sported Green Since 1961
- Video: A Day in the Life of Coke's In-House Art Curator
- Driving Home the Message of Atlanta's Civil Rights Legacy
- Sitting In and Standing Up: Unsung Heroes of Civil Rights Movement Reflect on Soda Fountain Protests