February 3rd, 2014
11:33 AM ET
9 years ago

Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad ignites online debate

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(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. Mama Judy

    Only the true languages of the American Indian, Hawaiian and Eskimo tribes should of been on it...indigenous people of America; who share their land with the immigrants..

    February 3, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. Charlie

    Wow. First a black president...then an Indian Miss America...and now this Coca Cola commercial? It's almost like America is a melting pot of cultures??

    February 3, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Lisa P.


    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

    And you should congratulate yourself for being one of the bees.

    February 3, 2014 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Christopher Loughrey

    I don't see the offence in the ad and I can only assume that those who are angered know little about their country and what it historically stands for: 1. America is a land of immigrants, the founding father were not Americans, not European immigrants looking for a better life, like the people portrayed in this video. 2. America is one of the few countries in the world without an official language – English is not and never was America's official language. The majority of people speak it because of its Anglo-Saxon origin, an empire founded on slavery and exploitation of non-Anglo peoples. 3. America the Beautiful is not America's national Anthem it is simply an American patriotic song along with numerous others. 4. The ad illustrated not only America's racial and ethnic diversity, but also Coca-Cola's unique brand power to unite the whole world indirectly to America via the most popular brand in world history which also happens to be a symbol of America and all it stands for. ~It is annoying giving history lessons to fellow Americans who can't think for themselves, but oh well!

    February 3, 2014 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Lila

    A small group of Americans(the ones who can't see why this bothers most in this country) just don't get it. Too bad no one in the Coke Cola company was smart enough to figure this out when they put the ad together. Next time stop listening to the views of activists especially in the media and get to know your audience.

    February 3, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  6. Kimberly Egan

    The United States does not have an official language. I understand that. My problem with the Coke commercial is that it showed a *divided* United States, not a united country. I can get behind showing ethnic diversity–but sing in English if that's the case. I can get behind singing in many languages–but show our wonderful American landscape or our armed forces serving together or *something* that will show our unity. We are many groups, many languages, but we are all Americans and should be perceived that way.

    That being said, I have four 12-packs of Coca-Cola products in the back of my car and I'm not going to pour them down the sink because I was annoyed by a commercial. 😛

    February 3, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Will

    For vast majority of people upset by this has nothing to do with excluding anyone, to suggest this is pure ignorance and an obvious display of their own intolerance. When my grandparents came to America they knew very little English, but were honored to be here and learned English in a short amount of time. They wanted to assimilate and be American's first. This commercial celebrates multinationalism and helps to create division. Using English is the one thing that binds all of us together, it always has been and hopefully always will be. To suggest otherwise shows ones lack of basic understanding of the issue.

    February 3, 2014 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  8. andsilverman

    I once was an immigrant too, so my objection to the ad is grounded in street creds. 
    I moved to Brazil 20 years ago with my 4-year-old daughter in order to join our Brazilian husband/father. I was 40 years old, monolingual except for high school French, and with a tin ear. Since most Brazilians know English, I could have survived without learning Portuguese, but I didn't out of respect and desire, nothing to do with politics. 
    I enrolled my kid in the local nursery school without asking for special treatment. She picked up the language without even trying. At home, we spoke and read stories in English so our daughter would keep and love her mother language.
    Like the USA, Brazil is a huge country in the New World whose citizens are united by one common language. But Brazilians are united by much more, for example: a national dish (rice and beans), a national sport (futbol/soccer), and a national party (Carnaval). This makes it all the more important for immigrants to the USA to learn English.
    Since I know that learning one's first foreign language at 40 is not easy, I can excuse older immigrants. But most of the faces in the Coke ad were young and have no excuse not to learn English.
    Coke could have sent a message that celebrated diversity without disrespecting English. The song could have, should have, been sung in English, but with foreign accents.

    February 3, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. Shaun

    Honestly, everyone needs to stop complaining. This is America. There are people from ALL over the world here. It's just a commercial from a collection of languages from ALL over the world. The world needs to learn to be a diverse place.

    Yes, the majority of people in America speak English. Always have, probably always will. I get that. But people who are offended by the commercial honestly need a reality check. No, really, grow up. We should welcome and embrace different languages.

    The thing that really annoys me the most are the people who say it should have been sung completely in English. Get off your high horse. Just because most Americans speak English as their first / primary language does not mean EVERYTHING needs to be SOLELY in English. Stop complaining and wake up!

    Signed – a hypocritical complainer.

    February 3, 2014 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. PaulF

    Ray Charles did the song much better, anyway. I don't drink that garbage anyway, so ultimately, I don't care. It's a commercial... an advertisement. It's supposed to sucker us into talking about it, thinking about it, and writing it's brand name over and over on Twitter, Facebook, and various other social media accounts. Word of mouth is extremely valuable. It's GOTTA be. Superbowl commercials are expensive as all hell, no doubt, so the more we all sit here and talk about it, they'll see that money back in no time.
    Your comments are fun to read, though. I like to picture different music behind each one that helps drive whatever point is being made straight home; the kinda duality that really tugs on the old short'n'curlies, if you know what I mean. Like... like Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. Yeah.

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  11. TheOblistfulPlateFull

    It's good to channel that energy it makes it look good that had a bright part in why so many rosed got up.

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  12. Jim Rogers

    My Grandparents came to America around 1900 from Poland and lived in Chicago . They never learned english but my mother tells me how proud they were to become citizens.I bet thousands of the haters of this ad have a distanced relative that did not speak engliish.This hate of " non Americans" reminds me of Hitlers take of the Jews , America is going down the wrong path with no way back I'm afraid.

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. NIE

    O mankind, We have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another. Surely the noblest among you in the sight of God is the most godfearing of you. God is All-knowing, All-aware.
    Qur"an- 49:13

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |

    This is a perfect example of how Americans born and bred here no longer have a right to their opinion on what being American means. No surprise you would throw your race card in there, your agenda is obvious. As a DEMOCRAT I can honestly say this is yet another slap in the face of this once great country, and a perfect example of how it's fast deteriorating into Club Med for the fence jumpers. Being American no longer has any meaning, they can take their version of our song back to their own country if that's how they want to sing it.

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. Kat

    Sing it in ENGLISH or don't sing it at all !

    February 3, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  16. Amber

    BEAUTIFUL commercial. There will always be ignorant racist people. Thankfully America is pushing back against the minority that is the white only crowd. If you want everyone to speak english then make it our national language. Oh wait their would never be enough votes to make that happen. To many voters that are immigrants or have relatives that are.

    February 3, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  17. Frederick Hartl

    How soon we forget that this nation was formed from immigration....too bad there wasn't native languages included.

    February 3, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. rconatser1

    God, people are stupid, petty, narrow minded jerks. It was a great commercial. The truly funny and sad part is that many of the people complaining slaughter the English language themselves.

    February 3, 2014 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  19. Estarianne

    God the assimilation push disgusts me. Why do people have to lose who they were to be American? We are not one people, we never were, we are a coming together. "American" is synonymous with "diverse." Our culture even is a conglomerate, and every contribution an immigrant brings from his or her country of origin makes it richer. Those who want to fix our culture at a set point and allow zero growth, requiring everyone to shed themselves at the door and don a "generic American" skin cheapen the history of our people.

    February 3, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. Ken Chambers

    The ads from the 70s promoted the spirit "I'd like to teach the world to sing". Evidently for some, that singing can only be done in English, which, incidentally, is a language that came from a foreign country – Engand). So why is it ok to sing a song in one particular foreign language and not another?

    February 3, 2014 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. Melanie Rauscher

    Everyone who thinks that English really is the native language of this country is an absolute uneducated fool. We speak English because of the people that came from England many years ago. Native Americans are the true Americans by blood. The rest of us immigrated from around the world, myself, Irish & German. Most people are well aware that the land was stolen from the Native Americans but no one will admit that English is not the actual native tongue. For the love of anything you believe in, read a book and educate yourselves to form solid beliefs. Especially, when those beliefs are based on history that you do not even know about. I am proud to be an American, the most free country in this predominantly awful world. I feel sorry for those of you who believe that English should be the only spoken language. English is spoken in more countries than any other language, how about we AMERICANS do the same. Laziness, it's incredible!

    February 3, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  22. stevenv

    Wow has anyone notice that the comments from the people most offended about the commercial not being in english can barely speak the language themselves.I find it hilarious the only true Americans are the Indians,native Americans ,everyone in this country came here from somewhere else if you are offended by a 30 second commercial you have some serious issues. Learn grammar and control the language yourself before you complain about someone not speaking the language.

    February 3, 2014 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  23. David D

    Funny how not one soul has said a word about the interracial couple -white woman, black man- Cheerios commercials? I have not bought Cheerios since I saw the first one last year. Guess everyone is so scared of being labeled "Racist"? I think that is just a media form of Bullying.

    February 3, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  24. Gurgyl

    The problem lies to GOP trash, Teatroll junk–not coke is it!,,,,,,

    February 3, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  25. Immigrant

    I'm an immigrant and speak other languages than English. I agree with the term of English only.

    February 3, 2014 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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