Seen as Offensive, Beer Can Has a Shortened Shelf Life
By Winnie Hu
The special cans of Coors Light beer started popping up in New York City in recent weeks ahead of the coming parade. The vitriol followed soon after with elected officials and others saying that the cans were tasteless and sent the wrong message.
So now the commemorative cans are no longer being produced for the 2013 Puerto Rican Day Parade.
The cans were imprinted with a circular logo that depicted the Puerto Rican flag as an apple along with the words: “National Puerto Rican Day Parade, Inc.” It was produced by MillerCoors — based on a modified version of the parade’s official logo — and was reviewed and approved by the parade’s organizers.
“The flag is a symbol of a nation, of a culture, and slapping it on a can of beer is disrespectful and trivializes a community and its contributions,” said City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She added that the beer can was particularly inappropriate this year because the parade’s official theme was “Salud: Celebrate Your Health.”
MillerCoors, which brews Coors Light, issued an apology over the can hours before a protest outside a beer distribution center in the Bronx that was organized by Boricuas for a Positive Image, a group of Puerto Rican activists. The annual parade down Fifth Avenue, scheduled this year for June 9, is one of the nation’s largest parades and attracts more than 80,000 marchers and two million spectators, according to the parade’s organizer, the National Puerto Rican Day Parade. (This year’s grand marshal is Chita Rivera.)
“We apologize if the graphics on our promotional packaging inadvertently offended you or any other members of the Puerto Rican community,” Nehl Horton, a spokesman for MillerCoors, wrote in a letter to the Boricuas group.
Mr. Horton said that MillerCoors was no longer producing the packaging and would stop distributing it by Friday morning. He said that the company had “a strong history of supporting the U.S. Latino community” and that its intent in sponsoring the parade was “to highlight the cultural strength and vibrancy of the Puerto Rican community and to provide scholarship funds to deserving individuals who are seeking to improve their lives through higher education.”
The company declined to say how many cans had been sold or how much had been spent to produce them.
It was the second time that MillerCoors, which has been a sponsor of the parade for seven years, has faced criticism in the partnership. In 2011, the company canceled an advertisement displaying three beer bottles and the word “emboricuate,” which would translate as “make yourself Puerto Rican,” after people complained that it could also be interpreted as a play on the Spanish word “emborrachate” (get drunk).
Madelyn Lugo, chairwoman of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade, said through a spokesman that the board had worked with the company to try to avoid potentially offensive promotional elements, and apologized for any misunderstandings caused by the final product.
Ms. Lugo added that the organization was taking steps to develop new guidelines for using and displaying the parade’s logo by third parties.
Ramon Jimenez, a lawyer for the Boricuas group, said that it was still considering whether to accept MillerCoors’s apology, and that the issue pointed to a larger problem with the parade’s organizer. His group has called for a change in leadership, and for more accountability in the marketing of the parade.
“They’ve commercialized the parade to the point where big floats for Budweiser and Coors dominate the parade while the cultural exhibitions and the various towns that march are minor players,” Mr. Jimenez said. “They’re overshadowed by the commercial interests.”