The author of one of the most beloved commercials of the ’70s laughs sheepishly as she tells the story of how she cast its starring role. Penny Hawkey hardly ever watched sports at that time, so she didn’t know Joe Greene from Joe Frazier or Joe DiMaggio. It was 1979, and Hawkey’s advertising agency was under pressure to help Coca-Cola freshen up its image. The soft drink giant’s once-massive lead in its market was eroding as rival Pepsi touted itself as the choice of the younger generation and introduced an ad campaign built around a head-to-head blind taste test.
Fearful that the cheerful jingles that characterized its previous commercials were getting stale, Coca-Cola asked McCann Erickson to come up with something new. Among the ideas that Hawkey and partner Roger Mosconi proposed was a spot that told the heartwarming story of a scowling football star and a timid little boy. As the football player limps down a stadium tunnel, he’s initially too tired and disgusted to make time for his young fan until the boy offers his bottle of Coke. Spirit restored after a long, refreshing swig, the player smiles warmly at last and in a heartfelt display of gratitude tosses the boy the jersey he had slung over his shoulder to keep as a souvenir… read more >