Twitter users, including Martin Luther King’s youngest daughter, were seemingly not pleased when Ram used a King quote during their Super Bowl LII advertisement to sell trucks.
During the advertisement, King’s 1968 “Drum Major Instinct” speech played over footage of different Americans having happy moments and working hard to accomplish goals with the help of Ram’s trucks.
As reported by HuffPost, “Just after the words ‘a new definition of greatness,’ a Ram truck comes coursing through mud and water in loving slo-mo, and it becomes clear what this video is actually about,” while the advertisement “ends with a still that reads, ‘Built to serve: Ram.'”
The YouTube version of the commercial currently has about 3,000 dislikes and just 1,000 likes.
Twitter users, including Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), quickly criticized the use of King’s speech to advertise and ultimately sell trucks.
Ordinarily I wouldn't mention the Dodge Ram's Super Bowl Ad because I wouldn't want to draw attention to it, but exploitation of Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech about servant leadership to sell trucks is a new low.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) February 5, 2018
— Oliver Willis (@owillis) February 5, 2018
The worst commercials are those that use icons like Martin Luther King Jr to sell things like a Dodge Ram truck.
— Matt Viser (@mviser) February 5, 2018
There was audible painful groaning at the Super Bowl party I’m at as everyone realized Dodge Ram was trying to profit off of an MLK speech
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) February 5, 2018
Yeah, because who knew MLK was talking about a Dodge Ram? Here I thought he was talking about equality.
— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) February 5, 2018
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) February 5, 2018
As the great Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character, and the make of their smooth Dodge Ram truck."
— eve peyser (@evepeyser) February 5, 2018
MLK drove a Ram truck?
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) February 5, 2018
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) February 5, 2018
the movie 'Selma' had to write original speeches for MLK to say because his family wouldn't license his words and recordings to them. Glad they finally found a good brand partner in Dodge Ram trucks that will honor his legacy
— WillMenaker (@willmenaker) February 5, 2018
After the civil rights leader’s youngest daughter Bernice King was asked whether she and her siblings approved the commercial, she replied, “No,” and the King Center, established by King’s wife Coretta Scott King, also distanced themselves from the advert.
So that means the King children allowed Dr. King’s voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck. pic.twitter.com/RRoRAbsvCH
— Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) February 5, 2018
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) February 5, 2018
Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK’s words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight’s @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial.
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) February 5, 2018
However Martin Luther King Jr’s estate, a different entity, reportedly did approve Ram’s use of the speech.
In a statement, Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., who exclusively license King’s estate, claimed they agreed to license Ram the speech because “the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy.”
“When Ram approached the King Estate with the idea of featuring Dr. King’s voice in a new ‘Built To Serve’ commercial, we were pleasantly surprised at the existence of the Ram Nation volunteers and their efforts,” he proclaimed. “We learned that as a volunteer group of Ram owners, they serve others through everything from natural disaster relief, to blood drives, to local community volunteer initiatives.”
“Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances,” continued Tidwell. “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”