Coke Brings Back Classic 'Mean Joe Greene' Ad

1979 Spot Makes a Return During Nascar Broadcast

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Coke is bringing back its classic "Mean Joe Greene" ad in its latest nostalgia play. The spot, which is technically called "Early Showers," is scheduled to air during Sunday night's broadcast of the "Bojangles' Southern 500" Nascar race at Darlington Raceway on NBC.

The race has a throwback theme, which is why Coke is running the spot, which debuted in 1979 and hasn't aired since 2000. As part of the throwback theme, race teams are painting cars with retro designs and concession items will include old classics such as fried green tomatoes, sausage perlo and pimento cheese sandwiches, according to Nascar.

"Resurrecting 'Early Showers' is an example of Coca-Cola's continued use of iconic advertising in a contextually relevant way," a spokeswoman said. "The meaning of this ad is timeless. It remains relevant to the brand and to audiences as much today as it did over 30 years ago."

The spot -- and its classic line, "Hey kid, catch" -- debuted in 1979 during the Major League Baseball season but is best known for airing a few months later during Super Bowl XIV. Created by McCann Erickson, the spot features the Pittsburgh Steelers player and his co-star, 12-year-old Tommy Okon. The ad inspired a made-for-TV movie two years after its original airing.

Penny Hawkey, the former McCann-Erickson copywriter who created the script, said that "we wanted a boy and an intimidating man -- someone who needs and someone who rejects -- and to have plenty of tension and relief when the Coke was handed over," according to a story posted on Coke's corporate blog last year.

"While we didn't set out to make a great social or cultural statement, we certainly had one," Ms. Hawkey added. "Joe was perhaps the first black male to appear in a national brand commercial, and it had a profound effect at the time. The letters we got were full of gratitude and excitement."

Another classic Coke spot, 1971's "Hilltop," was in the news earlier this year when it was woven into the plot of the final episode of "Mad Men." Coke did not pay for the integration and had little to do with it. But the brand seized on the free publicity by running a digital billboard in Times Square featuring "Share a Coke" bottles bearing the names of the show's lead players, Don, Betty, Peggy, Pete, Joan and Roger.

Both "Hilltop" and "Early Showers" made Ad Age's list of the top 10 Coke ads of all time.

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