Coca-Cola in the movies

By: E. te Grotenhuis

Dear Sodaholics,

You all have probably noticed it, and if not you will realize it now. The products of Coca-Cola can been seen everywhere in movies. Maybe you were drinking a Coke yourself and detected that the character in the movie did the same. The products of Coca-Cola and movies are always connected with each other. But the question is where did it start? Was it a way of advertising? Or is it a product we all use in our daily lives?

The answer is both, both questions are true. However, the company didn’t pursue product placements in the beginning. Filmmakers were of the opinion that Coca-Cola was used in our daily lives. And if they wouldn’t use the product in the story, film watchers would believe the story less. Ted Ryan, Coke’s director of heritage communications said; “…filmmakers believed Coca-Cola truly belonged in the frame”. As we talked about it before, Coca-Cola is a product connected with the American culture. Everyone knows the brand and almost everyone would rate Coke as a high value brand. And there for all kind of movies tried to incorporate the brand in different ways.

The brand gets integrated in a story in several ways. Not only cans or bottles are used, but also signs such as; billboards, trucks, caps, sweaters. The way of products placement is endless. There is even an office in Los Angles who helps Hollywood studios to provide them with the right products for that period. This office has been set up in the 1960, however the placements of products started way earlier.


The first time the brand was found in the cinemas was in 1916. In the movie; The mystery of the leaping fish, the brand was shown on a California freeway when one of the personages passed a Coca-Cola billboard. As the brand is part of the American landscape it was normal to use it. A movie scene get a sense of realism. Another movie who used a billboard, and got seen as the first movie who used the Coca-Cola brand, is King Kong.
Sometimes the brand role became an iconic moment. Every Coke- and movie- lover know the moment when E.T. opens a can of Coke or the moment that Superman flies through a billboard. Moreover, the products of Coke became in certain movies even the plot point.

According to Moriarty (1996) a combination of verbal references and visuals was the most effective form of product placement. As well when the main character and the brand were filmed at the same time.

But why do companies pay for these product placements if movie watchers see the products as part of their lives. The reason is really easy to explain; the brand companies earn a lot of money because of it. It has to be said that product placement isn’t only used to increase sales, it is also a way to increase audience’s familiarity. Anyclip found out that Coca-Cola has a brand influence of 9.7, this rate is followed by two other big brands; Apple and Toyota. That is probably also the reason why Disney theme parks don’t need to pay for the products of Coke, of course the consumers in the park still pays for it. The company tries to make the connection that Disney is equal to Coca-Cola what is equal to happiness.

Yang et al. (2008) found the following reasons why product placement is a great tool;
– It provides a continuing for advertising
– The association with well-known people
– It helps to target a specific group of people
– The lifespan of brand placements is longer than other channels
– Most people see brand placement as a positive way of connecting with a brand
– People are less critical with their responses if the brand gets advertised in a movie.


Research has also found a connection between the budget of a movie and the number of appearances of the Coca-Cola brand. It is a bit obvious, but when the budget of the movie is higher there are more product placement shown.

Another fun fact to know maybe is that Coke also boosted their sales with 18.1% by subliminal advertising in a movie aired in 1957. They inserted the words “Eat Popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” into a movie. Subliminal advertising is the promotion of a products whereby recipients are not directly aware of the message, but unconsciousness get Influenced by it.

Nowadays Coca-Cola isn’t only embedded in the American culture, but the brand can be seen as a global brand. A lot of other brands became the same status, however Coke can be seen as the instigator of the use of product placement. So next time you see a movie try to keep a tally! And you will be amazed by the number!



  4. Yang, M., Roskos-Ewoldsen, B., & Roskos-Ewoldsen, DR, 2004, “Mental models for brand placement”.
  5. Moriarty, SE, 1996, The Circle of Synergy: Theoretical Perspectives and an Evolving IMC Research Agenda”, In Integrated Communication: Synergy and Persuasive Voices, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

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