Coca-Cola commercial with Pittsburgh Steeler Mean Joe Greene and the kid a
grabber? You know the one. It opens with Greene, a Goliath of a man, limping
down a stadium tunnel, presumably injured, with a jersey slung over his
shoulder. A little boy follows him.
The boy says
timidly, "Mr. Greene...Mr. Greene...you need help?"
says Greene, too tired and disgusted to bother with the kid.
"I just want
you to know...I think...I think you're the best ever," the boy says, and
offers Greene his bottle of Coke.
Greene is at
first reluctant to accept the Coke; the kid—12-year-old Tommy Oken—persists,
and Greene finally takes it. He drinks all of it without putting the bottle
down, then calls to the boy as the kid is about to walk away, saying,
"Here...catch," and throws his jersey to him. The boy catches it and
exults, "Wow...thanks a million, Joe."
There is more
poignancy in this small scene than there is in many full-length dramas. No
wonder the commercial has been a huge success and is sure to win a Clio, the
Oscar of the advertising business. The commercial is, in addition, further
evidence of Madison Avenue's love affair with the Steelers, the ad world having
discovered that the Steelers' image—that they've achieved championship status
through honest, workmanlike effort—helps in the selling of many products.
Since winning the
first of their three Super Bowl championships in 1975, the Steelers have been
popping up in TV ads about as often as they have in opponents' end zones. In
the most widely seen of these, 11 burly Steelers have bounced on Samsonite
luggage; six Steelers have crowded into a Ford Fairlane; Terry Bradshaw has
chomped Red Man chewing tobacco; Bradshaw and Reserve Quarterback Mike Kruczek
have hustled 'Lectric Shave; Rocky Bleier (along with Dallas Cowboy Cliff
Harris) has extolled SPORTS ILLUSTRATED; and nine Steelers (among them L. C.
Greenwood, Steve Furness, Franco Harris and the now-departed Roy Gerela) have
frolicked in vignettes pushing Uniroyal's new Steeler tire. There also have
been a bushel of ads featuring Steelers made for the Pittsburgh market.
Aside from O.J.
Simpson, few other NFL players have enjoyed such wide commercial exposure; in
one of the non-Steeler national ads of late, L.A. Quarterback Pat Haden and
recently waived Dallas Linebacker Thomas Henderson did a commercial for 7UP
that was first shown earlier this season. Haden (broken finger) and Henderson
now are inactive but the commercial is still on the air.
commercials were produced by the Young & Rubicam advertising agency,
following the company's request that the agency come up with a tire name that
emphasized toughness. Michael Graupner, director of advertising at Uniroyal,
says, "The agency's idea was that the Steelers were the toughest team in
football. The name Steeler was perfect for a steel-belted radial tire. We could
have picked any team, but the Steelers are known as a tough and winning team,
as opposed to, say, Oakland, which is also a tough team but is considered to be
dirty, or the Giants, who are thought of as sissies."
organization is delighted that several of the commercials use a number of
players, rather than concentrate on one star. Pittsburgh Publicity Director Joe
Gordon says, "The Steeler tire campaign is tremendous for player morale,
and the commercials are terrific for our fans, too. Many fans get paranoid
about their heroes being shortchanged and not getting enough recognition. There
is the feeling that only the teams in New York or Los Angeles get this kind of
extra attention, so this has been a very popular thing here."