Sprite Boy was an advertising mascot for the Coca-Cola Company located in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the first face used to brand Coca-Cola.
Introduced in 1942, the silver-haired sprite (“elf”) with a friendly smile debuted in magazine print ads for Coca-Cola as a way to associate the company’s product with the term, “Coke®.”
Prior to the ads, the executives at Coca-Cola had discouraged the use of the word Coke, but when they realized the public was not willing to give up the nickname for their product, the folks at Coca-Cola jumped on the band-wagon and came up with the Sprite Boy campaign. The word “Coke” was seen for the first time in magazine ads in June 1941.
In the ads, Sprite Boy was a disembodied figure showing only his head and hands. He wore a Coca-Cola bottle cap for a hat (sometimes a soda jerk’s hat to reflect the sale of Coke at soda fountains) and flashes of light sparkled about him as a way of representing the effervescent carbonated bubbles in Coke.
The Sprite Boy was created by artist Haddon Sundblom, who also was responsible for the iconic image of Santa Claus used in so many popular Coca-Cola advertisements through the years.
In later ads, Sprite Boy appeared as a sidekick of Santa Claus in supporting US troops as they fought over seas in World War II. In 1943, the Sprite Boy appeared in ads encouraging Americans to “Buy United States War Bonds”.
One Christmas ad from 1948 shows the Sprite Boy looking at the readers as he uses a “Sssshhh!? sign while Santa peeks in a refrigerator to get a bottle of Coca-Cola.
And, in the 1949 advertisement “Travel Refreshed,” Sprite Boy watches over Santa’s reindeer while Santa takes a pause to refresh by drinking a bottle of coke.
Besides the magazine ads, the Sprite Boy was seen on signs, posters, clocks, calendars, and other miscellaneous items until he was finally phased out in the late 1950s. Today, Coca-Cola memorabilia featuring the Sprite Boy is a popular among collectors.
The Sprite Boy campaign was developed by Archie Lee of the D’Arcy Advertising Company.
NOTE: The word “sprite” is derived from the Latin “spiritus” (spirit).
In 1961, The Coca-Cola Company introduced a beverage called “Sprite®,” a colorless, lemon-lime flavored, caffeine-free beverage to compete with 7-Up, a similar flavored soft drink. The Sprite name was unrelated to the Sprite Boy of the 1940s.
The Disney Channel ran a TV series called “Johnny and the Sprites” from 2005-2009. It followed the story of Johnny T (Tartaglia), a song writer who moves into a house given to him by his great-uncle. There, he discovers little magical creatures called “sprites,” who live in Grotto’s Grove, a fantasy world accessible through a portal in Johnny’s backyard.
The Coca-Cola Company
P.O. Box 1734
Atlanta, GA 30301