World of Coke exhibit shares story of forgotten ‘Sprite Boy’

Sprite Boy, the elfin Coke ambassador, is not to be confused with Sprite soda

While most Americans have probably heard of Sprite they may not have heard of Sprite Boy. Now they can learn all about that forgotten icon of Coke culture as World of Coca-Cola kicks off the summer with a new exhibit.

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The “Story of Sprite Boy” runs now through spring 2019. And no, it has nothing to do with the lemon-lime flavored beverage of the same name.

Sprite Boy is the elf-like character that served as a Coca-Cola ambassador in the 1940s almost 20 years before Sprite soda was created in 1961.

The exhibit shares Sprite Boy’s story and history through artifacts, original paintings, print advertising and photos from around the world.

“World of Coca-Cola is all about delighting fans with an inside look at – and unique interactions with – the brands they love,” explains Russell Jacobs, General Manager of Retail and Attractions for The Coca-Cola Company. “Bringing artifacts from the Coca-Cola Archives together with modern technology, our latest exhibit showcases the once-popular Sprite Boy and reintroduces him to our fans of today.”

Sprite Boy was the first image associated with the Coca-Cola brand. He was created to solve what company execs considered a big problem -- they were not happy that consumers had started referring to Coca-Cola as Coke.

When they finally caved to consumer preferences, along came Sprite Boy to help make the nickname official.

Artist Haddon Sundblom, best known as the creator of Coca-Cola Santa Claus, illustrated Sprite Boy with rosy cheeks, a swoop of white hair and devilish brows to match. Sprite Boy was surrounded by stars that represented the bubbles in Coke as well as his sparkling personality. He was only rendered as a head and hands, never a body and wore either a soda jerk’s hat or a bottle cap.

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From 1942 when he first appeared in advertising to 1953, Sprite Boy appeared on signage, cartons, posters, clocks, toys, games and more. By 1958 he had been phased out, but still appears on items from manufacturers licensed to use the image.

A few years after Sprite Boy was gone, Coca-Cola introduced the beverage Sprite which had first been developed in West Germany under the company’s global Fanta brand.

It hit the U.S. market in 1961 to compete with 7-Up and according to Coca-Cola lore drew its name from a focus group. And thanks to Sprite Boy, Coca-Cola already had legal rights to the name.

Event details:

The Story of Sprite Boy. 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Sun-Thurs.; 9 a.m. - 5 p.m., Friday; 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday. Now through Spring 2019. $13 - $17. The World of Coca-Cola, 121 Baker St. NW, Atlanta. 404-676-5151.