Yesterday, Nehl Horton, Miller Coors chief public affairs and communications officer, wrote to the leader of grassroots movement Boricuas For a Positive Image (BFPI), Ramon Jimenez, and said the company would stop making the controversial cans and cease distribution from today (Friday).
But not all Puerto Ricans claim that using their flag on can perpetuates negative stereotypes (notably comparatively high rates of alcohol dependence among US Latino populations), and one sharp-eyed female marketer and Puerto Rican blogger notes AB InBev brand Budweiser’s use of the US flag on cans since 2011, and its recent pledge to donate some sales proceeds to military charities.
Since both can designs presumably also help the brands sell beer (altruistic motives aside) why, one might ask, should Miller Coors’ move evoke ire, whereas AB InBev’s is seen as a patriotic gesture of solidarity with US troops, and their efforts to protect the nation’s cherished freedoms? Comments below please!
What works for US mainstream may backfire elsewhere…
“Coors Light has been a top-selling beer in Puerto Rico for over two decades…Therefore I’m not totally surprised they have come out with this strategy [of supporting the June 9 Puerto Rican Day Parade with the can],” the marketer writes.
But while she said the design “looks cool”, she added that what “might work for the US main culture and mainstream might not work within a subculture, which in this case is Puerto Ricans”.
Horton said that SAB Miller/Molson Coors JV Miller Coors apologized for “inadvertently offending” anyone in the Puerto Rican community over the graphics on promotional packs, and cited its “strong history of supporting the US Latino community”.
Miller Coors had funded higher-education scholarships, job training programs and workforce readiness initiatives “that have positively affected the community for decades”, Horton said.
“Our intent in sponsoring the Puerto Rican Day Parade is to highlight the cultural strength and vibrancy of the Puerto Rican community and provide scholarship funds to deserving individuals who are seeking to improve their lives through higher education,” Horton wrote.
‘Worthy mission’ supporting Puerto Rican community
“In pursuit of this worthy mission”, Horton said it was “unfortunate that we have been caught in the middle of a disagreement between the BFPI and NPRDP over the sale of sponsorships to fund the parade”.
But state attorney general (AG) Eric Schneiderman wants to know precisely how Miller Coors has supported the parade’s positive work, beyond marketing its Coors Light brand.
Writing to both MillerCoors and the National Puerto Rican Day Parade leadership on Wednesday, Schneiderman said the beer giant’s sponsorship of the parade (it is an official partner) had raised concerns about how the charitable venture was being used to market and sell alcoholic beverages.
Especially given that the 2013 Parade’s theme is ‘Celebrating Your Health’, he added.
‘Height of disrespect’ to use flag
The parade has also upset local politicians, five of whom signed a May 28 letter penned by NYC council member Melissa Mark-Viverito to the National Puerto Rican Day Parade chair Madelyn Lugo.
They wrote as “proud Puerto Rican elected officials to express our disappointment with the continued commercialization and misrepresentation of our culture on the part of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade board and its sponsors”.
Mark-Viverito and colleagues refer to Miller Coors “highly offensive” ‘Emboricuate’ (which means ‘Become Puerto Rican’ but suggests Emborrachate, or ‘Get Drunk’) advertising campaign for Coors Light around the Parade in 2011.
The company was also forced to pull this campaign after suffering a social media backlash.
“Permitting the placement of our flag, the most sacred and important symbol of our culture, on cans of beer is the height of disrespect,” the politicians wrote.
Calling for tougher marketing guidelines to govern future events, they said sponsors should reflect the Puerto Rican community in a positive way, and added that the board should not approve products that damaged its public image and health.