Getting Nailed on Coke

March 26th, 2008

My friend Stefan Hammond, who is a media hotshot in Hong Kong, sent me one of the more bizarre news items of what is already a pretty bizarre year: Coca Cola signed on for partial sponsorship of the annual Good Friday celebration of Christ’s Passion in the Philippine city of San Fernando.

And why is that interesting, you may be asking, if you have a short attention span?

It’s interesting because the highlight of the festival is twenty-three, count them, twenty-three crucifixions. Twenty-three actual Filipinos are hammered to actual wooden crosses with actual nails and hoisted into the air. In some way that isn’t clear to me, this spectacle reinforces the spiritual commitment of the faithful.

But it’s not the spiritual value of the exercise that interests me (although it’s worth noting that Buddhism hasn’t inspired any practices that even occupy the same end of the craziness spectrum). What interests me is the buy.

I spend many years of my life working with some of the world’s largest corporations, including General Motors, ExxonMobil, IBM, and a dozen others. I’ve been in the room when ad commitments were proposed, for events like – let’s say, the Superbowl or the Grammy Awards. No matter how obvious the buy might be, there are always questions asked.

For example: What demographic are we reaching?

Well, overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, possibly unstable, religious zealots with sadism/masochism issues. And a small subset of style-obsessed Goths who regard stigmata as a desirable fashion accessory.

Or: What are the product placement opportunities?

The original crucifixion would have been a lot more pleasant for the onlookers if they’d had a cold, sweating can of Coke in their hands. And above the head of the crucifixees, to coin a term — where painters often place the little scroll that says INRI — we could put the Coke logo.

Who are the ancillary audiences?

This is a real strong point. For every crucifixion at the festival, there are dozens of people being scourged. And although many of them will scourge themselves, there will also be some scourgers. Scourging is hot work. Getting scourged is probably even hotter work. All those amateur scourgers out there will realize that a Coke is an indispensable part of the experience.

If we don’t want to buy 100%, are there potential advertising partners?

Sure. Black & Decker, for example. Think how really first-rate power tools would streamline the crucifixion process. Or, for even more obvious reasons, Bayer Aspirin.

What are the possible downsides?

Well, there’s death, of course, since that was the original objective of crucifixion, although in this case, the crucifixees aren’t kept up there long enough to expire. And then there’s infection, but we don’t have to worry about that because (and this is completely true) the City of San Fernando is insisting on tetanus shots and sterilized nails.

Okay, sounds good to me. Let’s buy it!

Someone at Coca-Cola actually spoke those words. Think about that the next time someone says, “Coke or Pepsi?”


By the way, Stefan Hammond’s lively blog is

5 Responses to “Getting Nailed on Coke”

  1. Greg Smith Says:


    Thanks for the laughs. Funny stuff.

    I’m surprised that Gatorade didn’t try to get in on the action.
    With all those lacerations and puncture wounds, the scourgees and crucifixees must lose their electrolytes by the bucketful.

    So, here’s a possible pitch. “If you’re a serious competitor- if you want to have real staying power on the cross, you need your essential salts and minerals. So get yourself a spongeful of Gatorade. Do it now. “Death’s a sport. Drink it up.”

    Something else:
    For the faint of heart who still want to participate in the festivities, the Temporary Tattoo Company will have a booth where you can get your very own press-on stigmata.

  2. Usman Says:

    Hi Tim,
    That was unbelievably funny.
    Of course the coke campaign could do with a pitch “Coke: A drink to die for.”

    And where was Pepsi, I ask you.

  3. Lisa Kenney Says:

    I can’t even believe this! I actually have heard about this annual event and have always been pretty freaked out by it. For the life of me, I don’t understand the point (ha, get it? the point? — sorry). But I’m with you, why would any corporation want to sponsor such a weird event? I actually laughed out loud at your proposed Black and Decker co-sponsorship!

    Hey, maybe someone will want to sponsor be-headings or canings or ritual circumcision. I’ll bet we’re seeing the bleeding edge (sorry, did it again) of a whole new kind of reality TV.


  4. Sphinx Ink Says:

    I’ve heard of/seen photos of this event. The participants have, er, religious fervor to excess. Either the pitch for it left out the most important info, or the Coke people weren’t listening closely…at least, I hope they weren’t listening closely, because it’s appalling that they’d sponsor the event if fully aware of what it involves.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    This post seems to have brought out a lot of creativity — not just in the responses here, but also in e-mails from people who used the CONTACT TIM button that’s somewhere on the site: additional sponsors and vendor booths (thanks Greg) even more hair-raising reslity show spin-offs (Lisa, let’s have your people sit down with my people), laughter and a new slogan (Usman) and unmitigated horror (Elora, whose name I’ve borrowed for a character in my new book). And from folks who e-mailed me, a variation on Easter that could be filmed by John Carpenter and a hot-day treat called CruciPops, which are, as you probably guessed, a frozen confection on a distinctively shaped stick.

    Admittedly, this is a Grand Guignol aspect of Christianity. It’s funny that we all get used to seeing crucifixes everywhere, almost as abstractions, but something like this gets us. Sort of like the meat-eater visiting the slaughterhouse.

    Or maybe not.

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