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Coca-Cola releases Andy Warhol-inspired Super Bowl commercial aimed at togetherness, announces $1 million gift for Atlanta attraction

National Center for Civil and Human Rights Credit: Kelly Jordan

The collaboration between the Center for Civil and Human Rights and RCE Greater Atlanta works because of the organizations' shared interests. Credit: Kelly Jordan

By Maria Saporta

While it’s not the official cola sponsor of the NFL, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola wants to be sure people attending and watching the Super Bowl will feel its presence.

Right before the kick-off of the “Big Game,” the company will air a new animated ad – inspired by a 1975 quote by pop artist Andy Warhol – that celebrates inclusion, diversity and togetherness.

In a similar vein, The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) also announced Thursday that it is making a $1 million contribution to the Center for Civil and Human Rights to enable as many as 50,000 guests to have free admission to the Atlanta attraction between Jan. 28 and Feb. 28.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights Credit: Kelly Jordan

The Center for Civil and Human Rights (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

“There is no better way to celebrate this exciting moment in Atlanta’s history than to give back to our hometown,” said Helen Smith Price, president of the Coca-Cola Foundation. “We are proud of our city’s remarkable civil and human rights history and are pleased to offer residents and visitors alike the opportunity to learn more about how diversity, inclusion and unity are central to the story of modern Atlanta.”

Coca-Cola is in an awkward spot with the Super Bowl being held in Atlanta – its hometown – because Pepsico Inc. (Nasdaq: PEP) is the official exclusive cola sponsor for the National Football League. In fact, in a press release announcing its new ad, it never mentioned the Super Bowl – choosing to call the event “the Big Game.”

Even though Pepsi is the NFL cola sponsor, Coca-Cola has produced Super Bowl ads for the last 13 consecutive years. And the company certainly wasn’t going to let the “Big Game” come to Atlanta without making a splash.

“Atlanta is certainly our home town,” said Brynn Bardacke, vice president of content and creative excellence for Coca-Cola North America, in an interview. “We feel it’s an opportunity to show off this great city. It is in keeping with brand’s values of inclusion. We are happy to welcome Pepsi to Atlanta and all the visitors.”

The company chose to air its new “A Coke is a Coke” ad just before the singing of the national anthem — to be performed by Gladys Knight — during the Feb. 3 Super Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“That’s a moment to pause before the ‘Big Game’ kicks in,” said Jennifer Healan, group director of integrated marketing content for Coca-Cola North America.

The company’s theme of “Together is Beautiful” is the latest chapter of the company’s 133 years of messaging.

“There’s a democratic truth of a Coke is a Coke is a Coke,” Bardacke said. “It’s a brand for everyone. Given that the Game is in Atlanta, we wanted to make a tangible demonstration of those values.”

In a release, Stuart Kronauge, president of the sparkling business unit and senior vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola North America, elaborated on that theme.

“Coca-Cola is a brand built on optimism, diversity and inclusion,” Kronauge said. “We have a long history of using the country’s biggest advertising stage to share a message of unity and positivity, especially at times when our nation feels divided. This year, we decided to place our ad just before the national anthem as Americans come together in their living rooms to remind everyone that ‘together is beautiful.’”

The ad – “A Coke is a Coke” – was created by Wieden+Kennedy of Portland, the ad agency behind the recent series of “Big Game” spots highlighting diversity and inclusion. It was animated by Psyop.

The $1 million contribution to the Center for Civil and Human Rights was the largest cash gift the Coca-Cola Co. has made to the Center. But in 2006, the Coca-Cola Co. donated 2.5 acres on land right across the street from Centennial Olympic Park for the development of the Center. The land was worth several million dollars.

The Coca-Cola Co. is the second Atlanta-based company to make the city’s civil rights history more accessible to Super Bowl visitors. Delta Air Lines Inc. (NYSE: DAL) made an $83,500 gift so that the National Park Service could open the doors of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park for 16 days – from Jan. 19 through Feb. 3. The park, which includes the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home, had been closed due to the federal shutdown.

During the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, Price and the Coca-Cola Co. also announced that was making three $100,000 gifts to local nonprofit organizations: The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; The Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Justice & Human Rights; and New American Pathways.

It made the announcement at the Salute to Greatness gala on Jan. 19 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta as a way of supporting organizations dedicated to promoting King’s legacy and the cause of understanding.

As Price said during a telephone interview: “We want our visitors to understand what a special place this is.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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