#PRinHistory: The Public Relations of Coca-Cola during WWII

Today, we may not think of Coca-Cola as a “risk-taking” company, being as established as they are, but it was actually a well-timed risk and some good old-fashioned goodwill that made them the international behemoth that they are today. At the time of World War II, Washington lobbyist Ben Oehlert joined forces with Coke’s then-president Robert W. Woodruff to convince the US War Department that Coke was a military staple, and announced that the company “would see that every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for five cents wherever he is and whatever it costs.” Imagine any company extending themselves like that today!

However, the gamble paid massive dividends, both in allowing Coke to become an international icon and cementing recognition of the company’s mission, “To refresh the world in mind, body and spirit. To inspire moments of optimism and happiness through our brands and actions.” The US Government paid the cost of shipping all of the Coke bottles to GI’s around the world, and even helped foot the cost of building bottling plants to support this effort worldwide. The soldiers introduced this slice of American life to all the countries in which they were stationed, and by the time the war was over, Coke had added 64 new overseas bottling plants (with GI’s having consumed 5 billion bottles!). Coke provided a desperately needed wartime boost of morale the world over and the status of the company was boosted accordingly.

This is a great example of a #PRWin because Coke took a risk to really commit to their mission, establish a huge amount of goodwill, and control how people felt about their brand as well as introduce it to new territories everywhere. We still have troops stationed in almost 150 countries – do you think Coke could do it again?


  1. “Mission, Vision and Values.” Our Mission Statement & Company Values | Coca-Cola GB, www.coca-cola.co.uk/about-us/mission-vision-and-values.
  2. March 29, 2002 by MARK JOHNSON. “TOP CONSUMER PR CAMPAIGNS OF ALL TIME: Consumer Classics – Our Eight Panelists Had a Tough Task Deciding on the Top 20 Consumer. PR Campaigns, as Mark Johnson Reports.” PR Week, www.prweek.com/article/141028/top-consumer-pr-campaigns-time-consumer-classics—eight-panelists-tough-task-deciding-top-20-consumer-pr-campaigns-mark-johnson-reports.
  3. “Coke and the U.S. Troops.” The Coca-Cola Company, 11 Nov. 2008, www.coca-colacompany.com/stories/coke-and-the-us.
  4. “Coca-Cola: The Pause That Refreshed.” The National WWII Museum Blog, 11 Jan. 2017, www.nww2m.com/2011/08/coca-cola-the-pause-that-refreshed-2/.
  5. “How Did Coca-Cola Motivate American Troops during WWII.” Prezi.com, 7 Apr. 2014, prezi.com/ohmmsdji-dh6/how-did-coca-cola-motivate-american-troops-during-wwii/.



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