By Heather Taylor, Icon Researcher & Blogger at Advertising Week
If you didn’t know any better, you might assume that Coca-Cola’s “Sprite Boy” was a brand mascot created for one of their most famous soft drinks, Sprite. However, in an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist within the world of big brands, Sprite Boy had nothing to do with the lemon-lime soda. In fact, he made his debut in Coca-Cola advertisements nearly two decades before Sprite was introduced!
Archie Lee, an executive at D’Arcy Advertising Agency who worked on the Coca-Cola account in the 1940s, developed Sprite Boy while Haddon Sundblom, an illustrator now known for his iconic renderings of Coca-Cola’s Santa Claus, drew him. He made his introduction in Coca-Cola ads in 1942, sometimes appearing alongside Santa or on his own, but always on a mission to help consumers connect their nickname for the beverage brand, “Coke,” with the Coca-Cola brand name.
Sundblom’s Sprite Boy had a unique appearance. Synonyms for “sprite” include fairy and nymph, and Sprite Boy had plenty of elf-esque features. He was depicted as grinning, wearing two different hats, and only ever showing his head and hands. These hats alternated between a soda jerk’s cap and a hat designed to look like a bottle cap, created to represent both sides of the Coca-Cola business. Stars surrounded Sprite Boy, a nod to both his sparkling personality and the carbonated bubbles inside of Coke.
Despite his popularity with consumers, Sprite Boy was phased out of ads by 1958. Three short years later, the soda would be introduced to soft drink fans. While Sprite Boy may be gone, his legend still lives on in bottles, cans, and glasses of Coke everywhere. If you look hard enough at those bubbles, they might actually turn out to be stars!