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Prospect of Trump Chills Coca-Cola Sponsorship at GOP Convention

Brand-name companies under pressure, nervous over front-runner's caustic rhetoric on race, women

Coca-Cola Co. is scaling back its sponsorship of this year's Republican National Convention, according to a published report. (Photo courtsey of GettyImages)
Coca-Cola Co. is scaling back its sponsorship of this year's Republican National Convention, according to a published report. (Photo courtsey of GettyImages)

Coca-Cola Co. is donating far less money to this year’s Republican convention than it has in the past as the possibility of Donald Trump atop the ticket has alienated advocacy groups like the ColorOfChange, which aims to strengthen the political voice of blacks.

The New York Times reported that brand-name companies like Walmart, Coke, Apple and Google are assessing sponsorship plans for the GOP gathering in July in Cleveland.

They are feeling pressure over the prospect of aligning their global products with a party standard-bearer whose caustic rhetoric has been viewed as offensive to African Americans, Hispanics and women, the report said.

“We are glad that Coca-Cola is choosing to do the right thing, by rethinking what will surely be a international platform for more hate and intolerance,” Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange, said in a statement that also called for corporate America to not air commercials during the convention.

“We have said from the beginning that this isn’t about left or right, but about right and wrong. Donald Trump’s violent rhetoric, has inflamed a national atmosphere already hostile to Latino, Muslim, and black communities as well as women and people with disabilities,” he said.

Trump’s core appeal to a rambunctious minority of the Republican Party has fueled his front-runner status. But it also has put establishment entities — whether GOP elected officials with varied constituents or corporate interests whose customers cut across party lines — in uncomfortable positions.

The Times reported that Coke, an Atlanta-based corporate giant, declined to match the $660,000 it provided to the 2012 Republican convention. It will provide $75,000 to this year’s event.

A company spokesman, Kent Landers, did not confirm the larger figure. But he said in a statement that Coca-Cola and its bottling partners have long donated to political conventions of both parties regardless of the nominees.

“In 2015, a $75,000 contribution was made by the company to both the Cleveland 2016 Host Committee and Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee. The Coca-Cola Company is a nonpartisan business and does not endorse presidential candidates or nominees, nor do we endorse any specific party,” the statement said.

But the Times, citing people directly involved in the matter, reported that Coca-Cola executives have been discussing how to handle the convention. The report said Coca-Cola has for years sought to appeal to minority consumers.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Emily Lauer, spokeswoman for the Cleveland Host Committee, which is tasked with raising more than $60 million from corporate and other donors, said the committee’s fundraising is “on track.”

“To date, we’ve raised 85 percent of our $64 million goal, and we’re confident that our sponsors are committed to being part of the convention in Cleveland this summer,” she said in an email.

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