William E. (Bill) Winter, the former chairman and CEO of the Seven-Up Company who led the development of the famous “UNCOLA” advertising campaign and pioneered corporate sponsorship of humanitarian causes, has died at age 95 after a long illness, the family announced this week.
A native of Granite City, Ill., Winter began a 59-year career with the Seven-Up Company when he was only 15 years old, working a summer job for his father, sales manager at the Seven-Up Bottling Company in Madison, Ill. He graduated from the University of Illinois in June 1942, earning Phi Beta Kappa distinction in Economics from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 to serve in World War II, rising to the rank of captain.
In 1946, Winter returned to work at Seven-Up, starting as sales promotion assistant at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., and progressing through the organization to become vice president-director of marketing. In 1967, under his direction, 7UP re-branded itself as the “UNCOLA” in a memorable, award-winning campaign. The brand also hired actor/ director/ choreographer Geoffrey Holder as its spokesperson in one of the most memorable advertising campaigns of all time.
Under Winter’s guidance, 7UP also became a pioneer in cause-related marketing as the first corporate sponsor of the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon, a relationship that raised millions of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association over 40 years of support.
In 1974, Winter became Seven-Up Company president and chief executive officer. He was named chairman of the board in 1979. Upon retirement in 1982, he served as a board member and consultant to Seven-Up, continuing after the completion of its merger with Dr Pepper in 1988. He was named chairman emeritus in 1996. 7UP today is one of the leading brands in the portfolio of Dr Pepper Snapple Group (NYSE:DPS).
“Bill Winter is someone I admired as a leader in the soft drink business going back to the early days of my career when I carried 7UP on my delivery truck in Springfield, Mo.,” said Larry Young, president of Dr Pepper Snapple. “The ‘UNCOLA’ positioning and the use of an iconic spokesman in Geoffrey Holder were breakthroughs for not only the 7UP brand but also our industry, as was the brand’s longstanding support of MDA. On behalf of everyone at 7UP and the larger Dr Pepper Snapple team, I extend our condolences to the Winter family.”
Winter is survived by Mildred Stiebel Winter, his wife of 39 years; by his two sons by Dorothy Schuster Winter (d. 1976), William C. (Judy) of Wildwood, Mo., and Douglas E. (Lynne) of Oakton, Va.; and by five grandsons and 10 great-grandchildren.