Most people can agree on what Santa Claus looks like – jolly with a red suit and a white beard. But he didn’t always look like that. Coca-Cola advertising actually helped shape this modern image of the Santa that we all know and love.
In 1931, The Coca-Cola Company asked artist Haddon Sundblom to create a collection of magazine ads for the festive season. He used Clement Clark Moore’s 1822 poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’ as a source of inspiration which featured Santa as a kind, jovial man in a red suit. But, up until then, images of Santa had varied around the world, and some even showed him as elf-like or spooky!
Back then, magazines were incredibly popular and Sundblom’s artwork appeared for more than three decades. This meant most people’s image of Santa was largely based on Coca-Cola advertising, which hasn’t changed to this day.
Many have speculated Santa wears red because of Coca-Cola, but he actually appeared in red clothing long before we invited Sundblom to illustrate him. Sundblom’s oil paintings were adapted for our advertising in magazines, store displays, billboards, posters, calendars and even dolls. Many of those items are popular collectibles today.