SBD/February 4, 2014/Marketing and Sponsorship

Coca-Cola, Cheerios Super Bowl Ads Draw Controversy With Pluralistic Themes

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Coca-Cola's "It's Beautiful" spot is filling the role of this year's "Super Bowl ad that generates a bit of next-day controversy," according to Patrick Day of the L.A. TIMES. The one-minute spot "features children and adults from all walks of life, from across the country, singing 'America the Beautiful' in multiple languages." Two aspects of the ad "appear to have turned it into one of those cultural hot spots." Some "objected to the idea of hearing 'America the Beautiful' sung in languages that were not English," while others "objected to the inclusion of two gay dads in the ad." Coca-Cola has been "under pressure for being a sponsor" of the Sochi Games, as the Russian government has "taken a decidedly anti-LGBT stance in the weeks leading up to the games." While some felt the inclusion of a gay couple in the ad was "a positive show of support, others felt it didn't go far enough" (L.A. TIMES, 2/4). Coca-Cola North America Brands President Katie Bayne said the company hopes the ad "gets people talking and thinking about what it means to be proud to be American." In Atlanta, Christopher Seward reports a 90-second version of the spot "will debut during the opening ceremony" of the Sochi Games. Full versions of “America the Beautiful” in the seven languages "are posted on YouTube and a multilingual version is on Spotify" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 2/4).

EITHER YOU LIKED IT OR YOU DIDN'T: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott reports there was "sharp divergence" among viewers "over how two advertisers, Coca-Cola and Cheerios, defined terms like inspiration and patriotism." The Coca-Cola ad "offered a paean to American pluralism," while the Cheerios spot was a "sequel of sorts to one that the brand’s maker, General Mills, introduced last spring." The spot features a family "composed of a black father, a white mother and a biracial daughter." Some commenters in attacking the Coca-Cola commercial "appropriated a hashtag that Coca-Cola used to designate its spot, #AmericaIsBeautiful, while others used the hashtag #BoycottCoke or coined hashtags that referred to Coke with obscenities." The attacks on Cheerios "were not as angry, nor was the volume near what it was last spring, when General Mills had to disable the commenting function on a post on YouTube" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/4).

CONTRACT EMPLOYEE: Tim Tebow's star turn in two T-Mobile Super Bowl ads was a topic of conversation on yesterday's sports television talk shows. ESPN's Bomani Jones said, "You have to give him credit for his ability to laugh at himself in this situation while he tries to work himself back into the league" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 2/3). Baker Street Advertising Senior VP & Exec Creative Dir Bob Dorfman said the ads "worked because it had a good tie-in." Dorfman: "Here's a guy who doesn't have a contract. It was a nice connection between star and message." CSN Bay Area's Jim Kozimor: "It was really fun and he kind of poked fun at himself and it worked" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 2/3). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "I thought the commercials were fantastic. I thought he showed a lot of personality." But ESPN's Skip Bayless said he "hated" the ads if Tebow "still wants to play" in the NFL. Bayless acknowledged the ads "came across as very Hollywood, leading man-type." But he said all the ads "will do for a GM who might have had an inkling that maybe I'll bring Tim Tebow to camp this year, it will remind that GM of what a huge media-crazed distraction Tim Tebow will still create in anybody's training camp" ("First Take," ESPN2, 2/3). 

TURNING ON THE RADIO: In Ft. Worth, Barry Shlachter writes RadioShack "scored with its first Super Bowl ad in a decade, a self-effacing spot that used a troop of 1980s celebrities ... to highlight its efforts to update a tired image." The ad for the "struggling" company ends by "showing a new RadioShack store design, emphasizing the makeover underway at the retail chain." RadioShack CEO Joe Magnacca, who took over in February '13, said of the ad, "We love the ’80s like everyone else, but it was time to show how we’ve evolved." RadioShack Senior VP & CMO Jennifer Warren added that the ad was "rated either No. 1 or among the top five by viewers in various surveys conducted Sunday night." Warren indicated that some viewers called it “not only best, but most effective in getting the message across that we are 'a new RadioShack'" (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 2/4).

ONE MILD NIGHT: In Chicago, Lewis Lazare wrote Super Bowl XLVIII "will no doubt go down in history as one of the worst showings in history for Bud Light during the big game, an advertising platform Bud Light once dominated." The brand's "Epic Night" ads were a "colossal failure on many fronts." The decision to "break up the 'Epic Night' into a 30-second spot followed by a frantically-edited 60-second spot created confusion and made it impossible establish a coherent storyline." The ads are a "humorless, rambling big-budget work that needed to be much better and more focused to have any chance of succeeding as a Super Bowl commercial" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/3).

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: ESPN's Keith Olbermann said Super Bowl commercials "have jumped the shark." Olbermann: "I have to watch not one, but two plays of a spot that invokes bull semen. Seriously? The annual Budweiser rip-off of 'Old Yeller' or 'March of the Penguins' or whatever -- if they spent as much money on making their beer taste good as they do on the Super Bowl commercials, America would be a happier place!" ("Olbermann," ESPN2, 2/3). Dorfman said, "There was kind of a blandness this year. Where was the questionable taste, where was the sleaze, where was the sex? You didn’t see any" ("Yahoo Sports Talk Live," CSN Bay Area, 2/3). The N.Y. Daily News' Ralph Vacchiano said "there's not a buzz about" the ads this year" ("Daily News Live," SNY, 2/3). Fox Business' Dennis Kneale said the ads "were just not that good." Kneale: "It was all the more evident given how bad the game was" ("Markets Now," Fox Business, 2/3).
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