The holiday season is synonymous with the image of Santa Claus - a jolly, red-suited figure with a white beard, rosy cheeks and a sack full of gifts. But this wasn't always the case. Prior to 1931, depictions of Santa varied widely, ranging from a tall, slender man to an eerie-looking elf.
Surprisingly, the iconic portrayal of Santa we know today owes a considerable debt to a collaboration between Coca-Cola and artist Haddon Sundblom.
Coke began using images of Santa Claus around 1920. In 1931, Coca-Cola sought to create a holiday advertising campaign that would resonate with audiences and evoke the warmth and joy of Christmas. They turned to Haddon Sundblom, an accomplished commercial artist with a talent for capturing the essence of human emotion in his work.
Sundblom's task was to bring the figure of Santa Claus to life in a way that would make him instantly recognisable and relatable. Drawing inspiration from Clement Clarke Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" and the cultural lore surrounding Santa, Sundblom set to work creating what would become the quintessential image of St. Nick.
Over the course of three decades, Sundblom produced a series of iconic illustrations for Coca-Cola's holiday campaigns. These images depicted a robust, red-cheeked Santa Claus enjoying moments of relaxation with a Coca-Cola in hand. The artist's interpretation of Santa exuded warmth, kindness, and a genuine love for the holiday season.
Sundblom's Santa was no longer a distant, mystical figure but a friend, a grandfatherly presence who shared the same joys and pleasures as the families he visited. The illustrations became an integral part of Coca-Cola's holiday advertising, appearing in print, on billboards, and even in store displays.
It's essential to acknowledge that Coca-Cola did not invent Santa. The roots of Santa Claus extend deep into history, with Sundblom's illustrations shaping the visual narrative surrounding this beloved figure.
Coca-Cola's Santa images have become ingrained in popular culture, shaping the way people around the world envision Santa Claus during the festive season. The Coca-Cola Santa has transcended its commercial origins to become an iconic representation of the holiday spirit.