How Burger King used SpongeBob SquarePants so wrong

The sexualization of SpongeBob in an advertisement. What could go wrong?

SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the most popular animated characters. Imagine having SpongeBob promoting your product. This is exactly what Burger King has tried to do. Let’s just say it wasn’t the brightest idea.

Fast food giant Burger King is no stranger to creating attention-worthy ads. In 2009, they created a huge controversy with a commercial titled SpongeBob SquarePants.


In 2009, Burger King came out with a commercial starring SpongeBob SquarePants, the popular cartoon character from Nickelodeon.

The ad featured two dancers alongside a Burger King mascot, dancing to a parody of Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s hit song Baby Got Back. The dancers all had squared backs, a reference to SpongeBob’s square physique, while the mascot said, “I like a square butt, and I can’t lie.”

The commercial immediately faced backlash. Critics argued that it was overtly sexual, especially considering SpongeBob’s primary audience: children. The use of the character mostly marketed to children in such a context has sparked heated debate.

The Campaign for a Trade-Free Childhood was one of its harshest critics. They called the ad inappropriately sexist and sexist.

The organization’s president, Dr. Susan Lane, raised concern (as The New York Times reported) about the use of a beloved character like SpongeBob to promote not only unhealthy food but also images of women being objectified and overly sexualized.

Burger King responded by saying that the ad was in fact intended for adults. They said the goal was to prove that adults can also have fun and play with things like rap music and famous pop culture characters.

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Despite their defense, the ad had a short lifespan on television. However, it continued to be circulated on social media platforms, often sparking new controversy.

Interestingly, this was not SpongeBob’s first encounter with controversy. Over the years, the show has faced various criticisms, from accusations of promoting homosexuality to claims that it messed with the minds of young viewers.

The Burger King SpongeBob ad was not an isolated incident either. The brand has a history of sensational commercials. For example, one ad included a Facebook campaign offering free Whoppers to those who deleted ten of their Facebook friends.

source: New York times

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