Origins of Using Santa Claus in Advertising

With Christmas right around the corner, now would be an appropriate time to dive into the history of Santa Claus in advertising.

Who gets the credit here? Did the Coca-Cola Company create the figure we know today as Saint Nicholas? Or perhaps, was Coke the first one to utilize Father Christmas in the advertisements? The answers may surprise you.


The Roots of Santa Claus 

The origins of Santa Claus date way back to the late 1700’s but for simplicity sake, we are going to start in the 1920’s, a time where the iconic red and white fur suit were standardized. Norman Rockwell is credited with crafting full sized Santas for the Saturday Evening Post, an American magazine that had success from 1897-1969.


Coca-Cola Catapults Kris Kringle Campaign

Fast forward to 1931 and it is at this moment where Coca-Cola launches their eminent holiday promotion of the modern day Santa Claus we know today.

It’s worth mentioning before Coke capitalized on Saint Nick, they created nothing new about the spokescharacter.

He already possessed the following:

  • a white beard
  • a red suit
  • the spirit of gift giving


Much of this comes from the popular poem titled, “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore.

This Soda Sells Well In The Winter

The soft drink giant needed ways to boost sales in the winter time, a slow time for Coke and competitors alike. Hence the brand launched what is now their perennial campaign. The idea behind choosing Santa Claus was rather simple. Santa has to travel across the globe in one night. As you can imagine, one can get quite thirsty from this. This is why Santa is always claiming how refreshing Coke is. The theme of these advertisements featured Santa Claus drinking Coca-Cola and getting it as a gift.

When you think of Coca-Cola, Think of Santa Claus 

At the end of the day, Santa Claus was not created by the Coca-Cola company. The figure was and still is constantly evolving every day. Yet, the beverage company is probably the best at taking advantage of Saint Nick in an advertising campaign. For this reason, some can argue Coca-Cola can be credited for the subconscious image we invoke when we think of Santa Claus.

All that being said, Christmas is one of the most special times of the year and somehow, it doesn’t feel like Christmas time without seeing the jolliest man with a red and white suit sipping on a Coke. From one fan of Christmas and marketing to another, cheers to the holidays and many more!