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© Photo: AFP

Text by Sam BALL

Latest update : 2014-02-04

It was meant as an uplifting celebration of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States of America and, of course, to sell soft drinks.

But unfortunately for Coca-Cola as well as America ‘s reputation as the world’s great melting pot, the company’s ad broadcast during Sunday’s Super Bowl has not been seen that way by everyone.

The ad, which features shots of people of different ethnicities across various parts of the US set to the song “America the Beautiful” sung in seven different languages, was a celebration of “the diversity that makes this country great”, according to Coca-Cola.

But shortly after it screened, during one of the most watched US television broadcasts of the year where a 30-second commercial can cost $4 million, angry viewers took to social media to voice their objections to the ad.

In particular, people were upset that the patriotic song “America the Beautiful” had been sung in languages other than English, including Spanish, Hebrew and Hindi.

Comments such as “Since when is it okay to sing ‘America the Beautiful’ in any other language than ENGLISH!” and “It’s called English, your in America [sic]” became common on Twitter and elsewhere.

Conservative politicians and media also took offence: “Coca Cola is the official soft drink of illegals crossing the border,” tweeted Fox News' Todd Starnes, while Republican former congressman Allen West called the ad “truly disturbing” in a blog post.

The backlash has shown no sign of dying down in the days since the Super Bowl, and along with #thisisamerica, #fuckcoke and others, one hashtag to start trending is #boycottcoke, with US consumers threatening to stop buying the soft drink, with most declaring their intention to switch to Coke’s rival Pepsi instead.

However, others quickly pointed out that if those offended by the ad were looking for an all-American alternative, Pepsi may not be the way to go.

Indeed, PepsiCo Inc’s current CEO is Indra Nooyi, born in Madras, India, while its president is Sudan-born Zein Abdalla.

Many on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere were also keen to show they did not share their countrymen and women’s views on the commercial.

It is not the first time a foreign-language version of an American patriotic song has caused controversy. In 2006, a group of Latin musicians and singers drew a backlash after recording a version of the US national anthem in Spanish, called Nuestro Himno (Our Anthem).

"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," then president George W Bush said at the time, "and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English, and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English.”

Date created : 2014-02-04


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