Rheingold Beer was the official beer of the New York Mets from 1962 to 1973. The partnership was iconic for both brands, as visibility was high everywhere from the Polo Grounds to the airwaves.
Rheingold had previously struck gold with its main media campaign, the Miss Rheingold pageant, which ran from 1940 to 1964. Each year, a new field of hopefuls would take New York City by storm. After the votes were tallied, a new Miss Rheingold would be crowned and featured in television commercials and print media.
The intersection of these campaigns was brief, but provided an interesting look into two marketing worlds colliding at very different times in their impact on the social consciousness.
1962 – Kathy Kersch
Mets fans were eager to watch New York great, Casey Stengel, take the helm of their brand new team. As the face of the franchise, it was an obvious choice to pair him with Miss Rheingold. Only problem was – Stengel violated a league rule by appearing in the alcohol ad in uniform. For his transgressions, he was fined $500, and future ads for the year featured only Miss Rheingold.
Kersch remembers her whirlwind of appearances: “We always went by Cadillac. I was forever changing in the back of limousines,” she said. “I must have given a few drivers a heart attack.” She would later parlay her Miss Rheingold press into a role as Cornelia, one of the Joker’s henchwomen in the 1960’s Batman television series, and also went on to marry “Robin,” Burt Ward.
1963 – Loretta Rissell
After Stengel’s gaff from the previous year, he got the last laugh by circumventing the rules for Miss Rheingold’s 1963 ad. He donned civilian clothes, while Miss Rheingold wore a Mets cap, which was not explicitly prohibited by the league mandate.
As part of the Mets’ promotional video for Shea Stadium, due to open in 1964, Rissell took center stage on the state-of-the-art “color motion picture” portion of the scoreboard.
Rissell looked back on what all Miss Rheingolds had in common – a certain pre-feminist primness. “We were like Ivory Soap – 99 percent pure!” She would continue her career in modeling after the reign as Miss Rheingold ended.
1964 – Celeste Yarnall
As the Miss Rheingold campaign had started to run its course, not much remained of an affiliation with the Mets. Candidates for 1964’s election were interviewed by Casey Stengel in this brief radio clip:
Yarnall, herself, wrote a long post on her own blog about the experience as Miss Rheingold which is definitely worth a read. Her election win was a whirlwind. “My year was very interesting not just because it was the last year of the elected Miss Rheingold’s but because the day I was notified that I garnered 20,000,000 votes and won it all, was the day before John F. Kennedy was shot. This happy new 19 year old Miss Rheingold went from joy to sorrow in 24 little hours…”
Although Yarnall was not widely used in Rheingold’s advertising during her reign as Miss Rheingold, the exposure still led to a long career in film and television, with notable roles on The Nutty Professor, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Star Trek.
By 1965, the Mets were a young, improving team only a handful of years away from becoming unexpected World Champions. For Miss Rheingold, however, the social climate was rapidly changing, and the demand for more representative advertising for women could not be ignored. The campaign had become a relic of a bygone era, and was quietly put to rest.