MillerCoors and Puerto Rican Day Parade Respond to Social Media Critics of Official Parade Beer Can

After a campaign by Boricuas for a Positive Image calling for MilerCoors and the Puerto Rican Day Parade to stop the distribution and production of an official parade Coors Light beer can displaying the colors and images of the Puerto Rican flag went viral via social media, both MillerCoors and the Puerto Rican Day Parade issued statements to NBC Latino defending the product.

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In a statement to NBC Latino, MillerCoors says it has a strong track-record of responsible advertising and marketing.

“Coors Light has supported the National Puerto Rican Day Parade for the last seven years in celebration and honor of Puerto Rican heritage,” the statement read in part. “We’ve included a variation of the official National Puerto Rican Day Parade logo on our packaging, which incorporates an apple to symbolize New York, a star and red and blue colors as a demonstration of our official alliance and support of the organization.  As part of our partnership over the years we’ve contributed to the Parade’s Diversity Scholarship Fund which has helped dozens of students manage the financial burdens of attaining a higher education.”

The National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) was more forceful in admonishing critics of the image.

“The mark in the promotion of Coors Light is NOT the Puerto Rican flag, NOR the logo of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc,” wrote spokesperson Javier Gomez in a statement. “It is an artwork created exclusively by Coors Light for this campaign, that integrates elements for the Parade’s symbol such as an apple, a star, and red, white, blue, and black colors. We call on community leaders to clear this misunderstanding, and stop misguidedly telling the public that the Puerto Rican flag has been posted on beer cans, something that the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc. would NEVER authorize.”

The NBC article also quoted New York City councilor Melissa Mark-Viverito, who has been an outspoken of both MillerCoors and parade organizers.

“It’s total bull, let’s be honest,” said New York councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is Puerto Rican and represents a traditionally Puerto Rican community known as Spanish Harlem or El Barrio. ”It’s not just me — look at the web, look at Facebook — when people see that, they see the flag. For them to try to say its not a depiction of the flag, that’s ridiculous. It was irresponsible and ill-advised and they should just apologize and move forward.”

Asked why she takes such offense to the depiction, when many might categorize the image as harmless, Mark-Viverito says it’s the mass commercialization of a culture, and she is particularly angered because the theme of this year’s parade is “Salud: Celebrating Your Health.”

“The flag is the ultimate representation of a nation and its contributions,” she says. “To equate that with a can of beer is disrespectful, especially when you look at the theme of the parade and the health disparities in the community. It doesn’t make sense, it’s counterproductive.”

Mark-Vierito also wrote a blog post on her personal blog called, “Melissa is Outraged About the Use of the Puerto Rican Flag on Beer Cans.” In this piece, she shared a letter to parade chairperson Madelyn Lugo that she and other local politicians of Puerto Rican descente wrote and co-signed:

National Puerto Rican Day Parade Inc

The letter states the following:

We write 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. The most recent example, involving the placement of our flag on Coors Light products, directly associates our culture with alcohol, and comes after 2011’s highly offensive “Emborícuate” adcampaign by the same sponsor. Permitting the placement of our flag, the most sacred and important symbol of our culture, on cans of beer is the height of disrespect.

Why the committee feels compelled to continue to work with sponsors that seem to go out of their way to misrepresent our people is truly beyond us. As others have pointed out, this type of relationship with Coors has been made even more nonsensical in a year where the committee has adopted “Salud” as a theme.

We understand that the coordination of the parade will involve raising a level of resources, including through the use of corporate sponsors, and we appreciate the interest of these sponsors in helping to make the annual parade a reality; however, there clearly need to be restrictions in place to prevent this type of insulting, wholesale commercialization of our culture. Sponsors should seek to reflect the Puerto Rican community in a positive way and highlight all of our incredible contributions to our city and nation. At the very least, the board should not put its stamp of approval, which includes our flag, on products that are deleterious to the public image of our people, not to mention to our health.

We urge you to put guidelines in place that finally govern marketing related to sponsorships of the parade in future years, and do all that you can to stop Coors from including the flag in any future production.

We know that you share our commitment to promoting Puerto Rican culture in aresponsible way, and look forward to your response to this letter.

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