September 7, 2013

Will US Media Take Note of Growing Values-Driven Spanish-Latin American Coca-Cola Boycott?

Catholic News Agency is ahead of the curve on a likely major development affecting a U.S. household name.

The Coca-Cola Company’s sponsorship of a “controversial Spanish reality (TV) show” (“disgusting” would appear to be a better word) in Spain is blowing up in its face, and not only because of the content of the program itself. The caustic reaction of a Coke executive to those who have criticized his company’s support of the program has sparked calls for a boycott of the company’s products which seems to have the potential to cut into the company’s sales volume. Excerpts from CNA’s Friday coverage follow the jump (bolds are mine):

Coca-Cola stock drops as boycott spreads in Latin America

Coca-Cola saw its stock value drop yesterday as the boycott against the soft-drink giant has spread across Spain and into Latin America over statements by its CEO in Spain, Marcos De Quinto.

In what has been labeled a direct attack on Christians, De Quinto, president of Coca-Cola Spain, hurled insults at life and family defense groups in response to a campaign by the religious liberty organization HazteOir.org to fight a controversial Spanish reality show.

During the program “Summer Camp,” a version of “Survivor,” one of the female contestants was made to strip to her underwear and jump into a pool of melted chocolate, while the host invited her fellow contestants to lick the chocolate off of her.

HazteOir.org successfully convinced several companies – including McDonald’s and Burger King – to withdraw their ads from the show. However, Coca-Cola declined to pull its ads, and De Quinto responded to those who objected to the sponsorship by calling them “fanatics” and “intolerant,” and accusing them of launching a “guerrilla-style” attack against Coca-Cola.

“May God spare us from groups like ‘The Guardians of the Faith,’ who want to tell us what TV shows to watch, what books and newspapers to read, what party to vote for,” De Quinto said on Twitter.

He also used the social media site to tell HazteOir.org president, Ignacio Arsuaga, “If having to think like you is the price I have to pay for you to keep drinking Coca-Cola, I prefer you don’t drink it.”

The comments sparked outcry in the Spanish-speaking world, and the Twitter hashtag #BoikotCocacola became a trending topic in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama, as hundreds of Twitter users announced their decision to stop buying the products until De Quinto retracts his statements.

In an article yesterday for the website DailyFinance.com, Wall Street analyst Amanda Alix noted that “Coca-Cola has fallen into the red today, a somewhat surprising follow-up to its performance yesterday.”

Noting the possibility of a widespread boycott, she said that De Quinto’s Twitter response will likely “only inflame the anti-Coke sentiment even further.”

Google translations of two of HazteOir.org’s web pages on the controversy are here and here. The first of the two articles is dated August 13, so the talk of a boycott has moved beyond the idle chatter stage.

An Aleteia.org article indicates that HazteOir.org also “convinced Orange, ING Direct and Minute Made (sic) to all pull their ads from the program,” and also notes the following:

De Quinto also threatened to have lawyers investigate what kind of penalties could be levied against the organization, which he accused of “inciting a pack of wild dogs against specific targets,” referring to its support for marriage and opposition to abortion.

In other tweets, De Quinto labeled Christians who object to Coca Cola’s sponsorship of the program as “fanatics” and “intolerant,” and accused them of launching a “guerrilla-style” attack against Coca Cola. He also said he had the backing of executives at the Coca Cola world headquarters in Atlanta.

De Quinto’s response generated an immediate reaction from Spanish-speaking Catholics in Spain and Latin America.

Bishop José Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastián criticized De Quinto’s attitude, and told the Cope Radio Network Aug. 30 that he personally would drink “only pure and crystalline water instead of Coca Cola until the situation is cleared up, because I think the president of Coca Cola in Spain has made a big mistake and should retract his statements.”

“I was under the impression that this company’s international advertising approach was very respectful of family and social values, and this does not square with the statements made by this president,” Bishop Munilla said.

The fact that the Atlanta-headquartered company is reportedly backing DeQuinto opens up the possibility that a boycott might make spread to the U.S. The last time social conservatives mounted a serious boycott against a company, the American Family Association moved the Ford Motor Company in early 2008 to decide to concentrate on its business instead of promoting politically correct causes, including same-sex marriage. The AFA’s move stopped a serious sales slide which had occurred during the boycott’s nearly two years and arguably enabled Ford to avoid the bankruptcy experiences of General Motors and Chrysler.

I guess that history explains why no U.S. establishment press outlet appears to have taken an interest in the weeks-old Coca-Cola story yet. (By contrast, Fox News Latino does have a story.) A search at the Associated Press’s national web site on “Coca-Cola” returns nothing relating to the boycott. Longtime followers of the news know that when elitist liberal groups call for boycotts, they get plenty of press attention, but usually little in the way of tangible results.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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