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The only advertising campaign in history starring a Pope

Angelo Mariani was a French chemist who developed his career in the service of his pocketbook. He devised, and marketed, various tonics and concoctions without much success, until he came across the work of Italian scientist Paolo Mantegazza on the effects of cocaine on the human psyche. He befriended a merchant travelling to Peru who provided him with coca leaves with which he began to experiment.

In 1863, Mariani marketed his new product: a wine called Vin Mariani, a Bordeaux wine treated with coca leaf extract. This tonic, containing 6 mg of coca per fluid ounce of wine, became very popular in Europe and when, years later, it began to be exported to the US, its coca content was increased to 7.2 mg to compete with Pemberton's French Wine Coca created by John Pemberton. This American pharmacist would not become famous for this tonic, but for being the inventor of Cola-Cola. Although there are different versions of the origin of the most popular soft drink in the world - one of them claims that its formula was copied from Kola Coca, a liqueur made since 1880 in Aielo de Malferit (Valencia) with kola nut and coca leaf extract - according to the company's own version, the history of Coca-Cola began on 8 May 1886 in Atlanta and is therefore very American. John Pemberton wanted to create a syrup that would soothe digestive problems and also provide energy, and he ended up with the world's most famous secret formula. Jacobs Drug Store was the first to market the drink at 5 cents a glass, selling about nine a day. It was just the beginning of a 120-year history.

 Jules VerneJules Verne, advocate and consumer of Vino Mariani, which "extended life".

Vin Mariani was a resounding success, with regular consumers including Queen Victoria of England, Tsar Alexander II, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, US President William McKinley, writers such as Jules Verne and Emile Zola... and Pope Leo XIII. It was said that the Pope was always accompanied by a flask of this peculiar tonic on his spiritual retreats, and the Vatican even awarded Mariani the gold medal. Although many celebrities had already lent themselves to selling the goodness of this concoction, Angelo, who was a business acumen, took advantage of the audience with the Pope on the occasion of the awarding of the medal and requested permission to use his image in an advertising campaign. The only advertising campaign in history to feature a pope.

Pope Leo XIII - Vino MarianiMariani wine advertisement in which Pope Leo XIII did not hesitate to participate.

After that campaign, sales skyrocketed, and the Vin Mariani began to be distributed at all parties and celebrations, in hospitals as a stimulant and to the army as an invigorant. Its sale was banned shortly before Mariani's death, at the beginning of World War I, when the effects of cocaine became known.

Javier Sanz
Storyteller through his blog, books, collaborations in the press and radio with the sole aim of bringing history in an entertaining and entertaining way to those who have left it aside. Director of the digital and interactive magazine "iHstoria". Collaborations in the newspaper Diario de Teruel, the magazine Iberia Vieja and the magazine Clío. Radio collaborations in La Rosa de los Vientos (Onda Cero), Gente Despierta (RNE) and La Noche es Nuestra (EuropaFM).


  1. the story is always interesting.the bad thing is that everyone tells it according to their own personal interest!!! but that doesn't make it any less interesting!!!


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