Super Bowl Ram truck ad using MLK speech draws backlash

SHARE Super Bowl Ram truck ad using MLK speech draws backlash
ap18036174320053.jpg

This file photo provided by Ram Truck Brand shows a scene from the company’s Super Bowl spot. The ad shows people doing service-oriented tasks set against audio of King’s speech, which urges people to be “great” by serving the greater good rather than being successful. | Ram Truck Brand via AP, File

NEW YORK — A Ram truck Super Bowl ad that used a speech by Martin Luther King Jr., is drawing a backlash.

The ad shows people doing service-oriented tasks set against audio of King’s speech, which urges people to be “great” by serving the greater good. It was supposed to highlight the volunteer program Ram Nation.

But it was criticized by viewers and ad experts alike for forging too tenuous a connection with the civil rights hero.

On Twitter, most people expressed the idea that using King’s speech to “sell trucks” crossed a line between a heartfelt message and exploiting emotions just to push a vehicle.

“They pushed it over the edge,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter. “You wanted to root for it because the cause is good, but it just didn’t end up fitting the brand, so you ended up feeling a little bit manipulated.”


“The use of MLK to promote Ram trucks strikes many people as crass and inappropriate,” said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.

Watching at home, some viewers expressed distaste for the ad as well.

“I liked being reminded of Martin Luther King’s speech (but) I’m not sure it was fitting for a truck commercial,” said Kimberly Stites, who was watching the game in Gretna, Nebraska. “I would have liked it better if they had said something like, ‘This reminder of all that we can be brought to you by ….'”

Fiat Chrysler said in a statement that it worked closely with the King estate on the ad.

The firm managing King’s intellectual property, Intellectual Properties Management, said in a statement that it approved the ad because it embodied King’s philosophy. On Twitter, the King Center in Atlanta said neither it nor Bernice King, King’s daughter, are in charge of licensing King’s speeches or other intellectual property.

The ad is not the first one to use a King Speech. Telecom Alcatel used King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in a 1999 ad that was also approved by IPM.

That ad shows King giving his most famous speech to an empty Mall in Washington D.C. to illustrate the idea that “before you can touch, you must first connect.”

Associated Press

The Latest
With quarterback Lombardi leading the way, Northern Illinois is the best bet in the area for bettors. Take the over on their 6 1⁄2 win total.
How well will you fare on this quiz that focuses on the century mark?
Przybylko has struggled in his first Fire season, but scored twice last week against Charlotte.
“Big Bad Budget Battle” follows three at-home cooks tasked with making meals from a “small stash of cash” in Flavortown Market.
“This is going to put wheelchair football and these athletes on display for the whole city to see,” coach Jason Sfire said.