Coca-Cola Spain president Marcos de Quinto’s Twitter war of words with Catholic group Hasteoir risks triggering demands for a boycott of the firm’s drinks among some Spanish-speaking consumers.
The colourful executive, who ironically enough sails under the Coca-Cola flag, describes himself on Twitter thus in Spanish. Here’s the English translation: ‘Pirate. I sail without a flag.I don't pretend to convince you about anything, maybe only make you doubt what you believe.”
This self-proclaimed open-mindedness puts him at loggerheads with conservative religious liberty group HazteOir.org, which launched a campaign in August to stop the TV chain TeleCinco's show Campamento de Verano (‘Summer Camp’), claiming it humiliated women to boost ratings.
A late August episode of the controversial reality TV show saw one woman coated with chocolate sauce using a watering can, which fellow contestants were then invited to lick off her.
Minute Maid advert aired
Scenes like this went down badly among some Christian groups in Spain, a staunch Catholic country, and led the likes of Danone and Burger King to ensure that adverts are not aired during the show.
Coke came under fire because – although it never sponsored the program directly – an advert for its Minute Maid brand was aired during one afternoon highlights show for Summer Camp.
The row escalated when De Quinto took to Twitter, complaining of harassment from Catholic secret society ‘El Yunque’ (The National Organization of the Anvil), which he describes in a September 2 post as a “mafia sect”, over the controversy.
He also re-tweeted a message criticising the group Foro de La Familia for being Ultra-Catholics and “rabid anti-abortionists” but insists he is not attacking ‘good Catholics’, Christians or Christianity.
Coke claims De Quinto statements ‘misunderstood’
De Quinto claims to stand for freedom against “intolerance and intransigence” and attacks what Spanish newspaper El Pais dubs ‘virtual harassment’ against brands and advertisers, but does not defend the show itself.
Asked about De Quinto’s social media stance, a Coke spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com: “Coca-Cola is not a sponsor of Campamento de Verano and as such we are not in a position to remove any support for the program.
“Unfortunately, there has been a misunderstanding of Mr. de Quinto’s earlier statements on Twitter. As one of the world’s most inclusive brands, Coca-Cola has a long established reputation of respect for all people – regardless of race, religion or gender.”
Irrespective of the rights and wrong of De Quinto’s position, it has not played well in the Spanish-speaking world, where the Twitter hashtag #BoikotCocaCola is trending.
Bishop slams Coke exec’s stance
Clearly, this is bad news for Coke given the difficult market situation in Spain (where volumes are depressed) and given the purchasing power of Hispanic populations in the US and the Americas.
According to Catholic News Agency (CAN), the Bishop of San Sebastian, Jose Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastian has also criticized De Quinto.
“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,” he reportedly said.