Plastic printed display sign with metal hook, “Welch’s / Sugar Daddy / Safety First."
On September 20, 1973, the young tennis star Billie Jean King faced off against the once top-ranked champion Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes,” beating him in three straight sets. The highly publicized match was viewed by an estimated 90 million people around the world.
During the match Riggs sported a yellow Sugar Daddy jacket, earning $50,000 from Nabisco. Sugar Daddy, a caramel bar on a stick packaged in a bright yellow wrapper with red printing, was christened in 1932 (renamed from the original “Papa Sucker”). The term “sugar daddy” has also been used since the 1920s to describe an older, wealthy man who supports or lavishes gifts on a younger woman. At the start of the Battle of the Sexes, Riggs, “the world's most celebrated male chauvinist pig,” presented King with a six-foot-long Sugar Daddy. As he quipped, it was "the largest sucker I could find for the biggest sucker I know." She countered by presenting him a squealing piglet, a symbol of male chauvinism.
American manufacturers seized on the merchandising opportunities, churning out Sugar Daddy-themed ephemera alluding to the famous “battle.” Nabisco (Welch’s brand) hired the Mortimer Spiller Company to create tennis racket covers in the familiar bright yellow color with red piping and printing, featuring a caricature of Riggs with a Sugar Daddy body and his signature below.
Mortimer Spiller Company, run by Mortimer Spiller (1922–2014) and his wife Harriet Enid Spiller (1926–2008), was in business from the late 1940s through the early 1990s, initially in New York City, then in Batavia and Le Roy, New York. They ultimately established their headquarters in Eggertsville, a suburb of Buffalo, and maintained a manufacturing plant in Batavia. The Spillers manufactured advertising and sales promotion products for companies of all sizes.