The semifinals of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament kicked off in Indianapolis on Saturday night, and hoops fans watching on TV received a ripped-from-the-headlines social message from one of its corporate sponsors. Honey Maid, the graham cracker brand owned by Mondelēz International, aired a heartwarming commercial from its long-running “This Is Wholesome” campaign, which aims to promote diversity through a series of spots featuring nontraditional families.
Saturday’s spot, which aired during the Duke-Michigan State game -- the first half of the Final Four doubleheader -- featured a gay couple nursing a newborn and talking about the value of marriage and family. When the commercial ended, the screen faded to light blue (a wholesome color if there ever was one) and the phrase “We Serve Everyone” appeared.
The commercial itself is not new; a longer version appeared on YouTube more than a year ago, but the older version did not include the proclamation of inclusiveness. Numerous Twitter users took the phrase “We Serve Everyone” as a direct response to Indiana’s intensely polarizing religious freedom bill and, more specifically, an Indiana pizza place that raised more than $842,000 on GoFundMe after its owners said they would not cater a gay wedding. (Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday revised the law in response to concerns that the original version would have permitted businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.)
â€” Nate (@nate2usmc) April 5, 2015
â€” Bryan O'Malley (@bryanomalley) April 5, 2015
Honey Maid with a strong commercial in response to Indiana's RFRA law.
â€” Jeff Sands (@jksands84) April 5, 2015
"We serve everyone." Well played, Honey Maid.
â€” Jan-Eric Anderson (@jhyphene) April 5, 2015
The Honey Maid spot earned its share of negative reactions as well, including the requisite boycott threats and Twitter users accusing the brand of using graham crackers to “push the LGBT agenda.”
The “This Is Wholesome” campaign is part of a broader trend of corporate-owned entities using their brand equity to further social causes, such as equal treatment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. While Honey Maid doesn’t seem to mind alienating a few potential customers for the sake of promoting the greater good, cause-oriented advertising can sometimes have woefully disastrous results, as Starbucks learned with its recent “Race Together” initiative, in which it encouraged baristas to engage customers in conversations about race. The coffee giant was forced to end the cup-writing campaign after enduring several days of blowback.
By comparison, it’s hard to see Honey Maid’s 15-second basketball coup as anything other than a slam dunk.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Honey Maid is owned by Kraft Foods. Its parent company was renamed Mondelēz International, following the 2012 split-up of Kraft Foods Inc.