February 3rd, 2014
11:33 AM ET
2 months ago

Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad ignites online debate

(CNN) – Coca-Cola’s Super Bowl commercial Sunday night was at first glance a moving tribute to America’s diversity, featuring a full minute of ordinary people of different races and ethnicity doing ordinary American activities, as the classic song “America the Beautiful” plays throughout the ad.

Nevertheless it became one of the most polarizing moments of the night. Why? The song was sung in different languages in addition to English, which sparked an uproar on Twitter.

Former Rep. Allen West explained why he and others were so upset by the ad.

“The last thing any of us should want to see is a balkanized America,” he wrote in a blog post Monday morning. “Furthermore, it has to be of concern that we have Americans who lack the resolve to take a stand for our borders, language, and culture.”

West, a Republican from Florida, was not petitioning for a boycott of Coca-Cola products, but argued the song should have been sung in English and showed U.S. military members of diverse races.

“If you truly want to show a diverse commitment to service, sacrifice, and honor that enables us to live in ‘America the Beautiful’ that would have been rated the best commercial advertisement of the Super Bowl.”

And as Washington grapples with tackling immigration reform, the ad also became fodder for that ongoing debate. Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham tweeted a reference to Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, whom she has criticized for supporting some GOP efforts to resolve the illegal immigration problem.

Others were quick to blame Republicans for making hay about the ad. Former White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe tweeted:

His tweet, of course, brought its own wave of criticism, as some compared it to the controversial MSNBC tweet last week that assumed conservatives would be offended by a Cheerios ad about a biracial family.

While the Coca-Cola commercial certainly had its critics, it also had plenty of people coming to its defense, including Republicans, such as Sen. Lisa Murkowski ‏of Alaska.

The Heritage Foundation, a high-profile conservative think-tank, also tweeted out support for the ad Sunday night.

The debate continued Monday morning with plenty of other people defending the ad—and blasting those who took issue with it. The term “America the Beautiful” became a trending topic on Twitter in the United States.

People also stood up for part of the ad that showed a gay couple with their daughter. It was apparently the first time a gay family appeared in a Super Bowl ad.

"Including a gay family in this ad is not only a step forward for the advertising industry, but a reflection of the growing majority of Americans from all walks of life who proudly support their LGBT friends, family and neighbors as integral parts of 'America the Beautiful'," said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis in a statement.

Peter Shankman, a branding and social media consultant, predicted Monday that the dust-up over the commercial will soon subside.

“The people who are online criticizing it and the racists and the homophobe, and all those–that’s going to be gone. They’re not going to be talking about this in three weeks. The people that it resonated with are the people who are actually going to spend the money to buy the product," he said on CNN’s “New Day.”

Or, in other words….


Filed under: Allen West • Lisa Murkowski
soundoff (441 Responses)
  1. Canucken

    Go figure, racists, bigots and generally small minded people losing what little they have left of their little minds over an advertisement that showed people getting along. Sad.

    February 3, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Eh

    Bunch of overly-sensitive children. I love my country, but crying about this is a waste of time and effort.

    February 3, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  3. TurthbeTold

    EDITED for my apparent inability to type!

    The United States of America doesn't have an official Language. We are a nation of Immigrants and English is the language of the Brits, it's not our own.

    While My parents too learned English and English is the first language for all their kids and grand-kids, it doesn't remove that fact that as a nation of immigrants we can speak many dialects, many languages, but still love America and bleed Red, White, and Blue. Isn't it time we stopped Judging everyone and declaring ourselves to be holier than thou? Being an arrogant jerk doesn't make you more **AMERICAN ** than the humble American

    February 3, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. Anonymous

    This is really sad that so many feel compelled and wish to exclude the very diversity that made our country what it is today. That diversity includes people from all over the world who left much if not all behind...for America.

    The song is a religious piece of art and originally a poem. It was written by a person travel from the east to the west, inspired by all she saw, I am sure that included what she heard as well. In that time Katherine Lee Bates would have heard much and taken in America for all she was, free, pristine and full of hope.

    This country is great because of the people who call America home. Most of America does not speak her native tongues and very few of the tongues are even known. The American Indians may be what they were labeled, in actuality they are this lands natives.

    So the next time we spout up all puffed up about english and this is America, remember how it must feel for those who can still speak the native tongues and how they must feel about what we call english.

    America even then stretched as it does today, maybe under different country names, from Northern Canada to Southern Chile. All the America's are indeed beautiful...as much so as the people and tongues spoken.

    February 3, 2014 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. kennyy

    I a not racist, bigoted or ultra conservative, and I have no problem what so ever with the ethnic Americans in the commercial, just that it wasn't performed in English. I found that very disrespectful and that is my right as an American. I just wonder when we'll see a Coke TV spot in any Muslim country showing women without head coverings....you know to show diversity.........anybody?

    February 3, 2014 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  6. Steve

    How dare they advertise that American is so wonderful to the rest of the world ….shame shame…..

    February 3, 2014 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  7. bnc

    They should have sung the song in english! It's not a problem if you are a legal Hispanic living in the usa, but you should respect our culture and the language we speak! I'm sure other countries would be rioting If I sang their songs that are dedicated to their country in English!

    February 3, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. David Snipes

    This is really sad that so many feel compelled and wish to exclude the very diversity that made our country what it is today. That diversity includes people from all over the world who left much if not all behind...for America.

    The song is a religious piece of art and originally a poem. It was written by a person travel from the east to the west, inspired by all she saw, I am sure that included what she heard as well. In that time Katherine Lee Bates would have heard much and taken in America for all she was, free, pristine and full of hope.

    This country is great because of the people who call America home. Most of America does not speak her native tongues and very few of the tongues are even known. The American Indians may be what they were labeled, in actuality they are this lands natives.

    So the next time we spout up all puffed up about english and this is America, remember how it must feel for those who can still speak the native tongues and how they must feel about what we call english.

    America even then stretched as it does today, maybe under different country names, from Northern Canada to Southern Chile. All the America's are indeed beautiful...as much so as the people and tongues spoken.

    February 3, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  9. pyewakit

    The fact that these people were proud enough to sing the song is all that is important...shows that they love the country as we all do. Multilingual is standard in America and Canada, so except it! As long as they are showing respect for the song, who cares what language they sang it in! Grow up people...it was not a slam on America, it was a tribute to it!

    February 3, 2014 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Anonymous

    Speak "American"? Really? Not surprised these comments come mostly from ignorant xenophobic narrow minded people. What kind of redneck moron thinks American is a language (BTW the name of the country is United States OF AMERICA, not America!). Adapt to the changes or die, people!

    February 3, 2014 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Paul K

    I muted this commercial after the second foreign language rendition. I was insulted that this uniquely American song would be delivered by foreign nationals in THEIR native tongue. It should only be delivered in English. Anyone can sing it as far as I'm concerned.

    February 3, 2014 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  12. Diane Nelson

    Altho the commercial was well put together, I am a firm believer that our beautiful song should have been sung in English by people of different ethnic backgrounds. I truly believe that if people from other countries want to move to America, that they should learn to speak our language. I have worked in production plants with Spanish speaking people and it creates a very difficult work situation when you can't understand each other. I often felt like I was in a foreign country. I like Coca Cola and will continue drinking it, but, I feel that the commercial should be changed.

    February 3, 2014 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  13. spi

    If I were to speak against the ad using the same tactics, then I'd say it should have been sung in a Native American language. They are the true Americans right? Right..?

    February 3, 2014 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  14. sailbyme

    How is it people don't see this is diversity for profit. They don't care what your ethnicity is as long as you buy their product. Jokes on us.

    February 3, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  15. surferpl

    Being a liberal Democrat and a member of the ACLU I have no problem with multiculturalism, but I do object - strongly and in no uncertain terms - "America The Beautiful" being sung in any other language than English. The song was written in English with the intent it was to be sung in English. The whole idea of the United States is E Pluribus Unum - out of many, one; we welcome immigrants who wish to become citizens of America and learn to speak one common language which is...English. I would hope Coca-Cola would take this into consideration. Keep the visuals which speak for themselves and re-cut the spot using the Ray Charles version which is superior anyway.

    February 3, 2014 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. Sidecrap

    I think you're confusing "brought out the trolls" with "ignites online debate"

    February 3, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  17. Will

    This is ridiculous. Would Jesus require that the Bible only be read in Hebrew? Get over it already. It's a song praising the beauty of America. It sure beats the hell out of other countries chanting "Death to America!"

    February 3, 2014 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  18. Sharla Hunt

    I liked it. I think should be one in the Native languages too and in English.

    February 3, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  19. james

    I'm just sitting here shaking my head....... what have we become that this conversation even exist?

    February 3, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. Erika Driver

    I honestly did not find it insulting!!! I have been in the Army over 13 years and went to war 4 times (3 in Iraq and 1 in Afghanistan) this is what I have put my life on the line for...America thrives on diversity!!! A synthesis of the world’s plentiful and varied races, religions, and cultures, America is a home to all, and no one group can call itself more “American” than another... And the fusion of cultures here is so unique and so exceptional that citizens can be just as proud of their original cultural heritage as they are to be an American!!!

    February 3, 2014 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  21. malcolmtbm

    Bravo coke...

    February 3, 2014 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  22. Name

    100% disrespectful that a patriotic commercial for our home land wasn't sung in our native language. Coke knew exactly what they were doing. Anything to generate a buzz!!

    February 3, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  23. Liz

    I wasn't angered by the diversity displayed in the Coca Cola commercial. I know this country was founded on the ideal of freedom from persecution for everyone, and I welcome anyone who wants to live in our beautiful country. I just expect them to speak English. What they do in their homes and private lives is their business. You want to speak Hebrew? Go right ahead, but learn English too, and don't sing about America in the language of the country you no longer wish to live in. It's bad enough that everything at the store comes in some other language. Everyone should at least be able to communicate. That is the purpose of having an official language.

    February 3, 2014 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  24. William Marcia

    I don't think it was offensive at all, quite the opposite. I think it shows how America is the center of attention and by having other countries sing the song makes America more known and powerful (:

    February 3, 2014 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  25. Howard K

    I loved the Coke commercial. I t shows what a beautiful mosaic America is. I think the problems here is that there are some that believe America is exclusive. They believe America is a society that needs to exclude some people from it, whether on account of race, ethnicity, religion or language. Others, such as myself, believe America to be inclusive, to be welcoming. Those who come here, as they have for centuries, want to share in the promise of America, regardless of background. Unfortunately, some, after they arrive, want to stop others. My grandparents, not speaking English, with a different religion and culture as the majority, loved America and became full Americans. They did not have to change their heritage, their religion, or their language. That is the promise of America.

    February 3, 2014 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
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