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. Marty

    Love it!

    February 3, 2014 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  2. Andy

    Very happy that everybody loves America and wants to come to America. We are a melting pot but how about the people who want to come here to assimilate to America...i.e. learn English which is what we speak here in America. You can have every ethnic group looking different but all speaking English.

    February 3, 2014 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  3. Carol

    Was it the company's intention to deliberately exclude Native Americans from the commercial? Or was it ONLY for Immigrants?

    February 3, 2014 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. Rev Camacho

    To hear people speak in an angry tone that people don't have the right to speak other language than English is childish and out of content. First America is a continent and in this Continent people speak thousand of language other than English. The USA of North America conducts business in other countries and they used their money as a currency in these countries. The fact is, if you don't speak other language, you should learn it and shut up. Stop being a hypocrite. God created language and we should be grateful for his gifts to us. This country was built by the immigrants like your grandparents and mine, and I feel that you are insulted by saying "speak English, you in America" When they did not even attended school in this country. You all should learn about history and maybe the "5 de Mayo should be a reminded why this is not a french country. God bless you all

    February 3, 2014 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. dkdj

    The only real problem is that it was meaningless corporate pabulum.

    But what kind of idiot fascist philistine would you have to be to get mad about people speaking different languages...

    February 3, 2014 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. ghostwriter

    What is lost on conservatives at their attempt to exhibit their otherwise questionable behavior they otherwise deny, they missed the one thing that they would otherwise celebrate. Capitalism.........

    Simply put, Coke is sold worldwide. The Superbowl was broadcast worldwide. Coke was simply advertising to their customers, regardless of their location or language. They definitely get the award for most bang for their ad bucks. Add in the additional press from nutjob conservatives and you get the best Coke ad since the polar bears.

    February 3, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. Rev Camacho

    An advice appreciate life because you never know who will...

    February 3, 2014 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  8. MeMelvin

    The world is full of people.
    Sadly, not all act like human beings.
    Fewer still are able to use their "hearts" and "brains" humanely.
    On top of that they apparently have no appreciation of cultural interpretation or artistic rendition.
    Oh, what a boring life they must live.

    February 3, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. Melissa

    The Coca-Cola ad was actually one of MY favorites. A friend of mine tried to argue with me, stating that this is America and everything should be in English. But my argument was, if you wanted to get technical, shouldn't it be sung in one of the "Native" languages, then? Because with that exception, all of our ancestors were immigrants...willing or not. And THAT's what I took from that commercial.

    February 3, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Patrick in Wisconsin

    And who said xenophobia was dead in America?

    February 3, 2014 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  11. One Fell Swooper

    It didn't ignite debate, it gave bigots something to tweet about and the rest of the internet a chance to mock the ignorant. Hardly a debate.

    February 3, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. Tim

    I enjoyed the advertisement and think Coke will definitely benefit from the aftershock their ad has created. It seems the ad maintained the percieved brand personality attributes of sincerity, honesty, and realness that make up Coca Cola's brand image (Aaker, 1996). This also hits on both the Nationalistic pride that Americans tend to revel in and also on the United States diversity. Coke did good with this one!

    February 3, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  13. JessJ

    Memo to all those who are incensed that English wasn't used throughout because it's the 'mother language of america'… sorry to point it out, but English wasn't the first language in North America… Native American was.

    February 3, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. johoedeman

    What bothers me most when America is presented at a sporting event is that men are told to remove their hats. People salute or put their hands on their hearts. Those tributes should be reserved for our National Anthem.

    I loved the commercial!

    February 3, 2014 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  15. smith

    The sad thing here is Coke doesn`t give a crap about anything but selling their product. From the looks of some these comments they used a great marketing concept. Maybe beer and booze companies should give it a try.

    February 3, 2014 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  16. johoedeman

    What bothers me most when America is presented at a sporting event, is that men are told to remove their caps. People put their hands on their hearts; vets salute. Those tributes should be reserved for our National Anthem.

    I loved the commercial.

    February 3, 2014 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. Name

    What defines being an American? If you go back in history you will learn that America was was made up of people from the Old Country they came from all over the world Germany, Norway, Italy, Spain, England to name a few. Immigration has been around forever so why does everybody freak out when they hear a different language. I liked the commercial. Some people that come to live in America from other countries are actually Proud to be here and work hard, that is what defines an American.

    February 3, 2014 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
  18. Diane Edwards

    I am a US citizen, natural born. My family has been US citizens since the late 18th century. I do not speak the same "english" that my ancestors spoke. Nor do I speak the same "english" that is spoken in Great Britain, for I find it quite difficult to keep up in a conversation with correct English speakers. This nation was founded and has prospered because of the "foreigners" that chose to settle here. For over 2 centuries, non-english speakers have settled in America, so, why is it news to so many Americans that non-english speakers reside here? Since this is news to many, let's also announce that many non-caucasians and non-white caucasians also reside here.

    February 3, 2014 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  19. Lynnie

    If this commercial is the "worst" thing you've ever seen? You're lucky, as this is just a nice commercial. How about those of us who were LUCKY enough to be born in the US, where we have FREEDOMS we take for granted day after day, take this time to learn about WHY people want to come here. I have an Aunt who came here from Ukraine TWENTY years ago this month. My Uncle could not even bear the conditions in which she and her family were living in Ukraine. Yes, there a still "bread lines". No toilet paper. And those are some of the least difficult things there (see the news from there currently)

    My Aunt is highly educated – she was a marine biologist – now she works retail here and is a citizen. She is exhausted after being on her feet all day, yet she STILL chooses the USA. She still has a heavy accent & I often wonder if people talk about that behind her back. This is still a great country, but we're slipping.

    I believe that " When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required".(Luke 12:48). All of us in the US have been given much – now we need to work on that second part!!

    February 3, 2014 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  20. Jonny

    Damn people shouldn't we be focusing on the bigger picture...and that would be get rid of the HFCS and put sugar back in my Coke...oh yeah while be are at it put it back in glass bottles ...geeze 😉

    February 3, 2014 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  21. Monica

    I bought 12 Cases of Coke today. One case for each person on my facebook who had something negative to say about it 🙂 I have 6 more to buy tomorrow! I am a die hard Coke fan and will be till the day I die! Way to go Coca Cola!

    February 3, 2014 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  22. capsib

    No, the fact that everyone is talking does not mean that Coca-Cola is "winning." There is such a thing as bad publicity, and people will abandon a product if the commercials are heinous enough to them.

    But I say that if people are going to go around with bigotry in their hearts, they don't deserve the sweet taste of Coca-Cola on their tongues.

    February 3, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  23. Marie

    Just because you can speak another language doesn't mean you do not know English. People should remember how this country was started, who it was that started it, where they came from, and be happy with it.

    February 3, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  24. Lisalee

    Would you all feel the same way if it were an advert about American Apple Pie ?
    Or will you be racist about that . Get over yourselves ok . You all making fuss are the same ones who also made fuss about the boy from San Antonio TX who sung at the Baseball game . You all who do this are the ones who have problems in this world . I'm done talking now .

    February 3, 2014 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  25. slimj091

    "Very happy that everybody loves America and wants to come to America. We are a melting pot but how about the people who want to come here to assimilate to America...i.e. learn English which is what we speak here in America. You can have every ethnic group looking different but all speaking English."

    i can speak any language that i want to in this country. keep your big government out of my linguistics.

    February 3, 2014 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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