Soccer and soda bring people together despite violent and bitter political conflicts, says a new ad from Coca-Cola.
2014 is Bosnia and Herzegovina's first time playing in the World Cup, and Coke is celebrating with a two-and-a-half minute video that tells the story of Bubamara, a Sarajevo soccer school for teens that was formed more than 20 years ago in the midst of the Bosnian War.
The school's founder, ex-pro soccer player Pedrag Pasic, played for Yugoslavia's team at the 1982 World Cup, well before the state's infamously brutal fragmentation into smaller republics—including Bosnia and Herzegovina—began in the early 1990s.
In 1993, even as Sarajevo was under siege, Pasic started Bubamara. Now, more than 40 of the school's alumni are pro soccer players, and one is representing Bosnia and Herzegovina at this summer's World Cup games in Brazil, per the video.
On the one hand, it's a powerful story, and the marketer has done well to shine a light on it. But Coke's part is fairly minimal, when compared, for example, to the brand's vending machine diplomacy in India and Pakistan. There, it created its own story, encouraging citizens from each country to dance with each other through interconnected digital displays, in exchange for free sodas.
Here, it simply brought the 2014 World Cup Trophy on tour to Bubamara's current students and the video—which has more than 340,000 views on YouTube since June 14—to audiences.
That limited role in the narrative, and Coke's somewhat disjointed entrance into the video, also calls into question how relevant the brand really is to the story. And that casts a shadow on how appropriate—or how effective—it is for Coke to associate itself with Bubamara's fraught roots, when the video's ultimate purpose is obviously to sell more Cokes.
In fact, the ad's tag, "some lines bring us together," which refers to the boundaries on a soccer pitch, takes on a surreal and almost glib quality, given the other kinds of lines are the ones where people are shooting at each other.
That is to say, while there are worse ways to celebrate than cracking open a Coke, it doesn't necessarily mean that every good thing that happens in the world is an excuse for a warm-and-fuzzy Coke commercial.
Director: Danis Tanovic