Wednesday, May 5, 2010

La Ola de Coca-Cola

In 1986 we were in Mexico. Yes, the year of the Mexican World Cup. I did not realize the importance of football in the world, especially the Latin American world. Remember, I’m from Brooklyn, not much soccer played there.

Coca-Cola was one of the sponsors of the event, a major sponsor.

I was responsible for the Coca-Cola account for Mexico and Central America. A great job! Mexico has the highest per capita consumption of Coca-Cola in the world and was a huge account for us at the time.

I get called to the office of the President of Coca-Cola in Mexico for the brief.

He cannot believe that I am not thrilled about the prospect of the World Cup being hosted in Mexico. Let me remind you, this is not the World Series and I am from Brooklyn.

It is going to be huge, and he wants the consumer to believe that Coke sponsors it, the whole thing. He wanted it to seem as though Mexico had nothing to do with it; it will be Coca-Cola all the way. Have to admire his cojones! There will be dozens of commercials and tons of other material to promote this event; a really big deal. I had better learn about this game and it’s importance throughout the world, except for the US of course.

Also we need an idea, something that will carry the ads, something big that will capture the event and Coke’s role in it. The head of Coca-Cola Mexico was an amazing character, with lots of creative energy. He tells me about something he saw in the States at a football game, American football not soccer. The fans were bored and would make a wave around the stadium. Great idea, since the word for wave in Spanish is Ola, Coca- Cola….get it?

We had the idea, now to make it work and teach the Mexican fans to do the wave. It had never been seen in a soccer stadium before. We had six months to get it done and make ads out of this. The birth of the Mexican wave; it is called that all over the world. It should be called the Coca-Cola wave, but I will settle for the Mexican wave.
This was one of the biggest things I have ever been involved with in my career. It was amazing to see this idea take off. This idea was so big it was easy to make the ads, ads that captured the people’s imagination; it became part of the vernacular. What a great experience. Go to youtube and put in the Mexican World Cup 1986, La Ola de Coca-Cola and see the scope of the campaign.

We did have one minor disaster, Hugo Sanchez, the great Mexican player, was one of the people Coke used in the ads. We had a spot with him scoring a penalty kick. He was great at it and it seemed a natural for him to score when he had the opportunity to kick a penalty. He missed the first penalty that they had. Our commercial showed him scoring. Guess what, our commercial ran right after he missed the penalty. The fans were not very forgiving and our star player went into hiding. We spent our time running around trying to cancel the spot. We didn’t want more trouble. Poor Hugo, he suffered more than he should have.

Other than that, it was a great campaign. We even had commercials for every contingency. When Mexico was knocked out we ran spots about the wave of the future, the junior league, with the young kids that would play, hopefully, in the future World Cups.

A Brooklynite, I was not only involved in one of the biggest advertising events in the history of soccer, but also helped make it happen. The Mexicans after the World Cup did not think that Coke only sponsored it but also actually brought the games to Mexico.

When you watch the South African World Cup, and the fans do the wave, and they will, remember, it is La Ola de Coca-Cola, not the Mexican Wave.

OK, OK, I will settle for the Mexican Wave.


  1. Nice job. Great story. Ola Greg.

  2. Totally remember that - and they even did it at concerts forever after! Ha - Bravo! But to be honest - I have to admit that you HAD invented it! ;) After all, I had never grown up in the States...

  3. Did you specially save up this story for Cinco de Mayo? I didn't even know it was called the 'Mexican' wave. Kudos.

  4. Tina, how long did you live in Mexico?

  5. Five years, señor ... and presumably they didn't need to call it the Mexican wave there - it just was.