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. BB

    I suppose it offended me because of where I come from and my upbringing. My Mom came to this country with an 8th grade education and spoke no English. She taught herself English with crossword puzzles and translation books. When I asked why we didn't speak her language as a child she told me it would be disrespectful to her adopted country.

    February 3, 2014 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. conchytonker

    I have to defer to Teddy Roosevelt's speech about assimilating into the American culture within 5 years of immigrating here. It would have been a much more powerful message to me if they were all (different races, nationalities, etc) singing in English.

    February 3, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  3. Wizzie

    ...and why can diversity not be portrayed by young people from different cultures and backgrounds who actually have learned to speak impeccable English and are well positioned to assume positions of leadership in this country? The only thing this ad portrays successfully is political correctness. As an immigrant, I believe in one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all – and it is far easier to achieve if we sing from the same sheet of music – in the same language.

    February 3, 2014 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. George

    Real Americans speak English! Huh? Do real English speak American to return the courtesy?

    February 3, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  5. Cindi

    I will never buy Coca Cola products again. THIS IS AMERICA. Learn English!!!!

    February 3, 2014 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  6. melchior37

    This is not about racism but our cultural identiy. Every group that has come to this country has had to assimilate and learn English. That is what bring us together as a nation and part of what defines us, no matter what race. We are a nation not an empire of various people. Also the Coke commercial featured parts in Italian and German. And Spanish last time I checked, is a European language spoken by people of various races. We are not asking immigrants to change the color of their skin but to speak our langauge and embrace our culture thereby becoming AMERICANS. What is so damn hard to understand about that??

    February 3, 2014 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  7. jc

    they pulled the cheerios add and left this unpatriotic one...something is wrong with this picture... and it isn't me!!!!!

    February 3, 2014 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  8. rebisfat

    Agreed that the super bowl was aired all over the world and that it would have been dubbed in the language of the country. Do you think they had the language dubbed in English in Germany? No, it probably was dubbed in German. Was it dubbed in English in Mexico? No it was probably dubbed in Spanish. This is America if you want to come here to live then learn English out of respect for Americans, just like you would learn French if you were moving to France or Spanish if moving to Mexico. Bottom line is if you are living in America learn to speak English.

    February 3, 2014 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  9. Jae

    People keep complaining about the language.... If you want something in English; go to England. America has multi cultures that it was formed with; it'll always be that. If there is an issue; have everyone learn Native American. That's the true language of this country.

    February 3, 2014 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. Rob

    ~ God shed His Grace on thee. Coke wins. I actually preferred the Pepsi Halftime Show.

    February 3, 2014 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  11. Thirsty Bob

    It never ceases to amaze me the things that drive the batsh!ts crazy.

    February 3, 2014 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. Anonymous

    I thought it was absolutely beautiful! #meltingpot

    February 3, 2014 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Average Ninety Nine Percenter

    We need to stop the economic elite from this divide and conquer routine that they constantly run on us. COKE is just diverting attention away from their real issue which is that they produce a product that, like tobacco, is killing people. I think if their intention was just to sell their product they would have trotted out the polar bears one more time. Don't be fooled by this company and their rabble rousing ways. The truth is COKE produces a product that is harmful and should be regulated by the FDA.

    February 3, 2014 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Emyla

    Yeah, the U.S is a mixing pot but all of us as a majority speak English... Let's say coca cola made a commercial of the Norwegian Mational Anthem for Norway as a commercial in English, it would be a discrace!

    February 3, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. e l

    You lemmings! This commercial, as well as any ensuing "controversy", was a calculated move by a multinational corporation. By igniting the majority of americans against a small fringe group over the issue of race, Coca Cola has generated FREE PR worth many times more than what it paid for during the super bowl. This results in classical conditioning, where Coca Cola is associated with "good", on a subconscious level, and those against Coca Cola are associated with "racism", or "bad guys". I bet most of those profiles against coke were phonies, planted by agents of Coca Cola to rally the common man to take up arms and defend diversity (and Coke).

    If you think i'm crazy or paranoid, think about it... These guys have millions of dollars to hire the best psychologists, media companies, whatever, paid top dollar in order to cement their brand in the mind of others. Now, they not only made a huge impression with so many people, they now subconsciously associate "Anti-coke" with racism. Quite brilliant, if you ask me, but also quite Machiavellian. Always be vigilant and look for what is truly going on behind the scenes.

    February 3, 2014 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  16. Big Jay

    I'm not surprised by this reaction at all, after all, this IS the same group of people that lost their minds when Cheerios featured an ad with a mixed race family ("Sweet Jesus, Jeb, that white women is married to black guy!!"). If you were offended by a coke add because it included a gay family and people that weren't speaking English, then you are a bigot. Not a kinda bigot, not a "I'm not racists, but....." bigot, you are a bigot. This is the definition of bigotry. And if you want people to stop calling you a bigot, then stop being one. Super simple. Nothing in you life will be as straight forward as that. There is no "debate" here.

    February 3, 2014 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  17. Darren Seabolt

    Do people not know that America is a continent and not a country? They should be more upset about the gay couple with a daughter for that is the true abomination.

    February 3, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  18. Justin

    Here's the thing... LEGAL immigrants are required to display the ability to read, write and speak the English language when applying for citizenship. The language of the US is English, period. That IS NOT to say that immigrants don't have the right to retain their own culture by any means because they do of course, but not at the cost of ours, that's just wrong.

    February 3, 2014 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  19. Megha Shyam

    This outrage by some is so ridiculous that it makes you wonder what sheltered life these people live in. By the way, I did not see the add but hats off to Coca Cola folks for airing that there exists languages other than English. Hwo pathetic these complainers are.

    February 3, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  20. Bobbie Oskolkoff

    What is the outrage about? We are a nation made up of many nationalities. Some of us have had to work hard to preserve the language of our parents and grandparents. We regret being forced to forget out heritage and language by being assimilated by those who want us all to be alike. Our county should be happy to honor as many languages and cultures as possible. English as a first language has nothing to do with being bilingual and singing a song about our country in as many languages as possible. That says I am proud to be a part of the melting pot of America.

    February 3, 2014 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  21. SFC Ken

    Totally offensive

    February 3, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  22. james

    The idea that English people claim this slab as their own is ridiculous I think the ACTUAL NATIVES would have something else to say...biggest BS story ever. I only want more color up here in South Dakota...please.

    February 3, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  23. Bob

    I think the intent of the ad was fine. We are a melting pot of people from all over the world. Where they dropped the ball was singing America the Beautiful in other languages. Almost as bad as ding this to the National Anthem. Poor choice by Coke.

    February 3, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  24. Anon123

    My parents are immigrants themselves and I guess that kinda makes me a relatively new American and I still think that the ad was wrong. You don't see French,Chinese,Indian, etc... singing their anthems in English. Learn English and assimilate, it's the American Way!

    February 3, 2014 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  25. TurthbeTold

    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 arrogant than the humble American .

    February 3, 2014 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
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