Hey Kid, Catch!
"Hey Kid, Catch!" is the popular name for a well-known television advertisement for Coca-Cola starring Pittsburgh Steelers defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene, which debuted on October 1, 1979 and was aired again several times, most notably during Super Bowl XIV in 1980. The 60-second commercial won a Clio Award for being one of the best television commercials of 1979.
Officially titled "Mean Joe Greene" by McCann-Erickson, the ad agency that created the commercial (which was part of the "Have a Coke and a Smile" ad campaign), the set-up and payoff is classic simple advertising: Following a football game, a child (Tommy Okon) offers an injured Greene a Coke, prompting "Mean" Joe to grab the bottle and guzzle the entire contents, before turning to limp away. He then turns back toward the now-crestfallen child, smiles and tosses the kid his team jersey with the now-famous punchline, "Hey Kid, Catch!". The heartwarming commercial became immensely popular, listed as one of the top ten commercials of all time by multiple sources, including TV Guide magazine. The ad was also shown in many other countries (including the UK) even where Greene was not well known.
The campaign's art director was Roger Mosconi, the writer was Penny Hawkey, and the singers of the "Coke and a Smile" jingle were Jim Campbell, Don Thomas, Liz Corrigan, Shellie Littman, Arlene Martell, and Linda November. The footage was shot in May 1979 in a small stadium in Mount Vernon, New York, and the commercial was released on October 1, 1979, though its airing during the 1980 Super Bowl brought it the most attention due to the program's enormous audience.
Greene later recalled that in filming the commercial, it took several takes to get his final line in the commercial right ("Hey, kid, catch!") "It's very hard to gulp down an entire bottle of Coca-Cola, and then speak clearly. The first three takes we did, when I finished the bottle, I looked at the kid and said, 'Hey, kid...Urrrp!' It wasn't intentional. I just couldn't say the line without burping."
In popular culture
The commercial was later adapted to star other countries' sports stars, including Argentina (with Diego Maradona playing Greene's role), Brazil (with Zico), Italy (with Dino Zoff) and Thailand. Also, a similar themed advert for Pepsi aired in the UK with David Beckham many years later.
- In 1981, NBC expanded the Coke commercial into a TV movie called The Steeler and the Pittsburgh Kid, with Greene playing himself and the kid played by Henry Thomas, who soon after starred as Elliot in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
- In a 1980 sketch on the CBS comedy-variety series The Tim Conway Show parodied the ad, with Greene appearing as himself and the "kid" portrayed by Conway. When Conway says "Uh, Mr. Greene?", Mean Joe says "Hey kid, catch!" but instead of throwing him his jersey, he throws the Coke bottle at his head and knocks him to the ground.
- In the 1983 Newhart episode "A View from the Bench", where Dick Loudon is expelled from Boston Garden's seating section to the tunnel for a Celtics game, where an exhausted player is offered a "cold drink" from Loudon and turns back shouting "Hey, kid" as he tosses Newhart his basketball shoes as a souvenir.
- In the 1994 The Simpsons episode "Bart Gets Famous", where Bart encounters Krusty the Clown in a hallway while touring his television studio, and Krusty says "Hey, kid" and tosses him a towel.
- In the 1999 Family Guy episode "Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater", where "Mean" Joe not only offers his jersey, but throws the rest of his clothing as well. This same reference was portrayed once again in Family Guy in the episode "Road to Germany", when Stewie is given some much-needed uranium, to complete his time machine, by Greene. Both times "Mean" Joe has the same line: "Hey, kid, catch!"
- In 1999, a Checkers and Rally's commercial parodied this commercial which the Coke bottle is replaced by a Champ burger.
- In the 2002 Futurama episode "A Leela of Her Own", after Jackie Anderson gives a back-handed compliment to Leela after taking over her position on the team, Leela says, "Hey kid" and throws a towel at her, knocking her down.
- In a 2003 Star Wars: Clone Wars episode, where Mace Windu lands in front of a small farm child during the Battle of Dantooine, who then offers him a sip of his canteen before Windu force jumps away in a reference to the Coke kid commercial.
- In 2006, in a TV ad promoting asthma awareness. A child with asthma tosses his Jerome Bettis Steelers jersey to Bettis himself, who is also an asthma sufferer, after a pick-up football game at Carnegie Mellon University's Gesling Stadium.
- Children's television program Sesame Street created a sketch very similar to the commercial, with the number seven replacing the Coke bottle.
- During Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, in which the Steelers would defeat the Arizona Cardinals for their sixth Vince Lombardi Trophy, a commercial of current Steelers player Troy Polamalu aired that had him do a remake of the famous Coke commercial, except it was advertising for Coca-Cola Zero instead. Two Coke "brand managers" take the Coke Zero bottle away right when the kid was to give it to Polamalu, with Polamalu subsequently tackling one of the "brand managers", then instead of giving the kid his own jersey ripped the shirt off the "brand manager" he had tackled and tossed it to the kid. Greene, who like Polamalu lives a very quiet lifestyle off the field in contrast to his on-the-field play, liked the commercial and gave his stamp of approval.
- An ad for the Fox TV series House, first aired during the 2011 Super Bowl XLV, parodies the original ad with a similar scene in which Dr. House, played by Hugh Laurie, throws his cane to a young fan played by Preston Bailey.
- In 2012, Greene parodied the ad in an commercial for Downy Unstoppables with Amy Sedaris in the "kid" role.
- BusinessInsider "The 10 Best Award-Winning TV Ads Everyone Must See" by Alyson Shontell, January 18, 2011.
- Hey, kid, catch!" Coca-Cola ad.
- Isaacs, Stan (December 17, 1979). "Mean Joe: Goliath plays Othello". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
- "Singers' Seminar explores steps to success" (pdf). Stand By 43 (2) (New York: AFTRA). Fall 2010. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
At the request of the singers in the audience, Arlene sang "A Coke and a Smile", a classic jingle with Mean Joe Green which has played every year for a decade on Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials, and in 2009 was voted into the Super Bowl Hall of Fame. Singers on the commercial are Jim Campbell, Don Thomas, Liz Corrigan, Shellie Littman, Arlene Martell, and Linda November
- "Former Seaside boy set to appear in Super Bowl commercial Sunday -". The Daily Astorian (Astoria, Oregon). February 4, 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2011.