Olympic salute Coca Cola folk art

Coca Cola Company
The Silver Anvil Award for 1997

General review
From its traditional relief bottle, Coca Cola moved away in the 1970s and 1980s, when larger-size packaging, usually with flat walls, began to gain ground in the market. Everything changed in 1994 when, with the advent of a new technology that allowed plastic relief packaging, the company again began to actively use the relief bottle in order to clearly emphasize the difference between its drink and all other soft drinks.
To support the worldwide initiative for the use of embossed bottles, the Coca Cola marketing team of six people was asked to develop and implement a program aimed at consumers of all ages, representing different cultures and lifestyles.

A formal study of consumers confirmed that nothing so corresponds to the image of Coca Cola, as a relief bottle. This study showed, however, that the company should not only emphasize the “rational” benefits of the bottle (convenient to carry, light, etc.), but also revive the “emotional” connection with the consumer through the packaging. He needed to be reminded why the relief bottle was really special. In addition to this problem, many young people did not have to buy a relief bottle, and the shape was of less importance to them.
The study also showed that many people consider the relief bottle aesthetically attractive, a kind of folk art. Indeed, artists, including Howard Fmster of Georgia, used the bottle constantly in their works. Experts in the field of painting confirmed that the shape of this bottle has deep roots in traditional folk art and similar forms exist in the traditions of almost every world culture.

Starting from this research, the marketing team created a unique exposition based on the traditions of folk art, using a relief bottle as a common element. The project “Olympic salute Coca Cola folk art”, held against the background of the global world sporting event – the century of the Olympic Games in 1996 – had the following objectives:

  • it is clear to say that Coca Cola is a special and unlike other soft drink (“Only Coca Cola!”);
  • to consolidate the position under which Coca Cola is an indispensable part of the surrounding everyday life;
  • create a sense of “ownership” of a relief bottle among consumers.

At the heart of the message is: “Nothing so much corresponds to the essence and spirit of Coca Cola, like a relief bottle, and nothing so much corresponds to the essence and spirit of the people as its traditional art.”
To join the project invited countries participating in the Olympics. Additional information was requested from the Coca Cola representative offices, the project was improved, a detailed description was developed to convince colleagues in other countries to participate in the program.
According to the plan, each participating country defined its own approach to the creation of sculpture – some appointed artists, others held qualifying competitions, some worked with schools and universities. Artists were given the freedom to come up with a design that best reflected the local culture. The Museum of American Folk Art helped select for the creation of bottles five American artists who represented different regions of the country and used different means of artistic expression.
The total biennial budget was 400 thousand dollars, of which 242 thousand (60%) were spent on the preparation of the exhibition and the delivery, storage and recovery of bottles (with the exception of expenses for artists and promotion to the international market).
The marketing team coordinated all aspects of the program. We had to solve thousands of problems related to logistics, from the transportation and restoration of bottles to the curating of the exhibition and recruitment.


  • The result exceeded all expectations, as folk artists from 54 countries created multicolored, three-dimensional bottles (from 2 to 12 feet * in height) from local materials. They were such different people as a wood carver from Belize, a toy manufacturer from Uruguay, a school teacher from the Fiji Islands, an Irish schoolgirl, a former servant from South Africa and Finster, the inspirer of the program.
    In each market, a local PR campaign was conducted to draw attention to the participation in the program. A variety of approaches were tried, including first show ceremonies with the participation of heads of state, competitions with popular voting, events timed for the dispatch of the exhibit, exhibitions in shopping centers and places of congestion.
  • In recognition of their efforts, all the artists who took part were awarded “gold” medals, similar to the Olympic ones, which strengthened the sense of the spirit of the Olympic Games.
  • The multi-level approach to PR included the first showing of Finster’s bottle in the folk style at the exhibition at the Atlanta Museum of Art and additional classes in studios where 3000 children were decorated with 20-ounce ** relief bottles; dispatch of advertising souvenirs consisting of a funny postcard and a brush with Finster’s autograph in a plastic relief bottle; individual promotions in the native cities of artists representing the United States; the periodic display of new bottles on the Coca Cola website and other events.
    Television companies around the world were provided with video materials on the manufacture of bottles taken in China, South Africa, Uruguay and other countries. In addition, for employees at the headquarters of the company in Atlanta for a month, a preliminary display of 15 bottles was held, during which artists from Brazil created their own new bottle.
  • Preservation of objective tone in the materials being prepared nourished the “sense of discovery”. Linking cultural images with commercial products required special care in PR-approaches. It was important that “art speak for itself.”
    During the Olympic Games, a collection of bottles was exhibited for free viewing. The exhibition was located in the historic building of the freight railway station (Georgia Freight Depot) together with the center of the company for the sale of Olympic badges. Two American artists created their bottles during the 22-day exhibition in order to arouse the interest of the media and meet the expectations of the audience.
  • A package of six bottles in folklore style, located in the arrival hall of Atlanta International Airport, welcomed thousands of guests of the Olympics to make them feel “at home”.

Evaluation and analysis

  • For top management and our foreign colleagues, a report was prepared that included: 1) a review of the results of a representative sample of 500,000 consumers who visited the exhibition; 2) the results of a study conducted among overseas managers to determine the value of the project for their market and their evaluation of corporate PR support; H) global coverage in the media by country.
    After positive reviews during the Olympics in 1997, bottles were sent to the world tour of 10 European countries. During the tour, it was planned to create new bottles for the permanent collection, which will continue to expand.
  • Bottle images in folklore style were used in television commercials, in memorable gifts given to famous Americans, and in the company’s semi-annual report to the owners of the shares. The success of the exhibition also led to the production of a line of licensed collectible souvenirs.
  • In general, it was confirmed the placement of 1228 publications in the world media, which brought 2.1 billion media contacts. Especially wide coverage was received in China, India and other emerging markets, key to the company.

Media coverage in the US included the Associated Press, USA Today, NBC Today Show and other publications and TV channels. The project was so successfully connected with the task of strengthening the brand, highlighting the identity of Coca Cola, that the marketing team was asked to prepare a detailed study for the marketing managers of the company around the world.