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. Kat

    I like the spirit of the commercial. I think we have to respect all of the cultures that make up America. I also believe that if you live in America you need to speak Emglish well enough to communicate on a daily basis with people here.

    February 3, 2014 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  2. Cheryl

    Can we not pretend the racists have a point? Because they don't. We live in a country where lots of people speak more than one language. Bi- or multilingual people are a credit to the intelligence of this country.

    Bigots are stupid and wish everyone to remain as ignorant as they are.

    February 3, 2014 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  3. Erin

    I liked the commercial! Thought it was moving and showed how diverse and multicultural our country is! People shouldn't hate on this fact! Coke has always been proud of their cultural commercial opps!

    February 3, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  4. Mommyofthreeboys3

    THIS was a very UNAMERICAN commercial. Why not show the different cultures UNITED under the English language?

    February 3, 2014 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  5. ghostwriter

    You nutjobs take being nutjobs to a whole new level of nutjobdom. Heaven forbid Jingle Bells be sung in Spanish...

    February 3, 2014 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  6. Jacob


    I'm confused. Please explain how wanting our National song sung in our National language is racist?

    February 3, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  7. Nameshirl McLaughlin

    I think some Americans need to get over themselves! Your a multi cultural nation!
    If any one culture should be complaining it should be the Native population! They are the TRUE Americans and they don't all speak English! Coke were In keeping with their diverse advirtizing ! Think outside the box ! Well done coke, you created dialogue!!

    February 3, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  8. Name

    Boo this debate.

    February 3, 2014 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  9. Louanne Ambrose

    I found the commercial offensive. As the granddaughter of immigrants from Italy & Lithuania I am honored to say my grandparents attempted to learn English & their children & descendants all speak English as our first language. If you want to live in America as an American, learn our language.

    February 3, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  10. Heidi

    Oh brother! You don't see the Native Americans panties in a twist over a commercial! Remember America had a different language before English.

    February 3, 2014 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  11. Gary cameron

    People who exhibit this type of hate, the ones upset over diversity in an ad especially one that plays to a worldwide audience, are the problem with our society and are responsible for retarding the progress of humanity.

    February 3, 2014 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  12. John

    To people that say that "America the Beautiful" needed to be sung in American (English). People do understand that the United States doesn't have an official language? Our country is a mixture of language and I do believe that singing "America the Beautiful" in different languages does justice to the Roots of American Culture.

    February 3, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  13. Debbie

    What's the big deal. My daughters that were born here in America and speak English and Spanish. I have several friends that know more than one language and my great grandparents that came over to America spoke several languages. How many teachers speak different languages. I don't think the commercial was about what can I not understand because I don't speak it, it was about so many different cultures that live in our country. Most people living here speak English as their main language but so many also speak a different language. People just like to (*&(*)*^. Did you understand that language?

    February 3, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  14. Rick

    u gotta admit, the uproar is an overreaction, which unfortunately is what a lot of conservatives usually do, instead of taking these things in stride and tackling them in a smarter more thought out way. thing is though, its amazing how people confuse tolerance and diversity with cultural integration and forget the oath they take to "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen;...". when anyone decides to become a citizen or even be a permanent resident, he or she has the obligation and duty to embrace American culture, especially the language that is historically understood and used by an overwhelming majority of the population. Unfortunately, government is partly to blame as to date, this country does not have an official national language, leaving open a gigantic chasm for debate on why english should be "rammed" down everyone's throat.

    February 3, 2014 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  15. dede miller

    Didn'tlike it coke

    February 3, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  16. Christian

    Who ever found this add insulting needs to get out of my country now. Every last single one of you. This is no longer a single languge country. You raging undereducated nationalists are head hunting and its disgusting. Nearly every single one of our ansestors came here speaking a different language and learned english yes. That was because we were so raging racist and nationalist that if they didn't speak english they were harrassed, humiliated, and very often impoverished because AMERICANS refused to hire them. Many American citizens still have a working knowledge of their ansestors language because it is WHO THEY ARE. They are Americans. Irish Americans, Italian Americans, African, Spainish, Latino, Russian, French, and so on and so forth. We are Americans. Yes we speak english, but all of us have a foreign heritage. Even Native Americans were forced to assimilate to English. So it is touching that Coca-Cola reminded us of our roots and who we are and who lives here you biggoted, foolish, disgusting representation of Americans.

    February 3, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  17. Freedomics

    Capitalism doesn't have a country or a language. Coca-Cola is a brand sold all over the world, and this was a commercial designed to reinforce brand awareness to as wide of an audience as possible. It might have irritated a sub-set of US citizens, but the USA is only 5% of the world population. Money talks. Adapt or die of irrelevance.

    February 3, 2014 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. David

    I had no problem with the commercial.

    That being said, I thought Jenny's argument was way out of line. Ben was giving a sound argument with a personal example of an immigrant from another country to back up his point, and Jenny bashes in with a very personally attacking tone. Her heat was unnecessary. Had she given her argument in a more controlled manner and with less offensive passion, I would have respected her much more.

    February 3, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  19. Doreen Schofield

    I was super offended and hated it! Anyone can drink Coke, anyone can speak any language. If Coke wants to sing their jingle in other languages, fine. But America the Beautiful is in ENGLISH, it's not a jingle, and quite honestly has nothing to do with a soda!

    February 3, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  20. DRufusOnfyre

    Uneducated Americans feel so threatened by things they don't understand. Absolutely ridiculous! America is, and always has been, a country of immigrants who share the dream of a better future for their families and themselves. Different languages, ethnicity and customs add beauty and richness to our culture like seeing in color and hearing more than one musical note.

    February 3, 2014 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. Kris

    So sad that all persons are not accepted here in America. We need to celebrate our cultural differences. Coca-cola! You have my vote. The ad is beautiful. Thank You!

    February 3, 2014 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Lizza Jones

    It was a sweet commercial, what is the problem about not being in English. Has anyone called a number and the first choice is Spanish press1, I have seen government ads in Spanish with not a bit of English to be found, ( I do not live in any of the border states) Do not blame Coco Cola for simply doing what big Corporation started in the '80s all for the mighty dollar and profits.

    February 3, 2014 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  23. Jeff Lange

    It was a great commercial. Inclusive, inspiring, and of course carefully branded... and the controversy doesn't hurt, either, as Eric Matthew points out with his Tweet.

    Psjlt, if your anecdotal silent room thought the ad was no longer beautiful and inspiring once American citizens began singing in their native tongues to honor this country with the words of America the Beautiful, then perhaps the problem is the company you keep. This commercial intimates that our country is diverse, as are the languages spoken in it. Well, that, and that Coke is an equal opportunity purveyor of cola.

    Also, what are you talking about when you say, "We, just as other great nations do NOT assimilate to foreigners visiting or living in our land." Ignoring the poor use of "assimilate", what are you talking about? What foreigners are not supposed to visit us? Are you saying that non-English speakers are not American? Do you think the commercial showed foreigners somehow mocking the United States by singing about how beautiful it is?

    You do not make sense to me. We have always been a melting pot, and we have always taken in people from around the globe. I might also mention that there is no official language in the United States, and that I have no idea what "other great nations" you speak of, as nearly every nation houses people who speak multiple languages, and that's true as far back in history as you care to look.

    February 3, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Name

    My respect and admiration to Coca-Cola for such an empowering, and culturally diverse commercial.

    February 3, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  25. Michael Fondacaro

    As soon as I heard lyrics of "America the Beautiful" being sung in another language, I knew the ad would cause a firestorm and trend. Some of the angry comments are beyond priceless. My God, what people worry about these days.

    February 3, 2014 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
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