Despite being an avid sports fan myself and actively following several codes of football; ranging from association football to rugby union, and even Aussie rules, I have never really taken a keen interest in gridiron.
Given however my disinterest in the game, the Super Bowl is one event I could not have missed each year; not for its sporting significance, but rather, of the entertainment value that the occasion provides at half-time and the plethora of advertising spectacle on display for the world to see.
Super Bowl LI, was the greatest gridiron event ever witnessed, both from a sporting point of view, and also from a commercial and a political one as well. In the face of growing divisions in the country, many brands used the event as an opportunity to take a stance, in which marketing and politics were somehow seamlessly intertwined into its core messages.
All in all, 66 brands aired its campaigns at the Super Bowl this year and the total advertising spends was estimated to be around $US385 million, with the average price PER SECOND at $US160000, according to Advertising Age; a record high in the game’s 51-year history. You can safely conclude that the health of advertising is still solid.
What stood out most was the communications strategy that various brands decided to adopt; the message of ‘inclusion’. Beyond the spectacular performance by Lady Gaga during the half-time break, complimented by extraordinary audio and visual installations and flawless choreography, were the subliminal shots taken at the newly-installed Trump administration.
Before plunging into the stadium with a harness attached to her body, she quoted from the Pledge of Allegiance: “One Nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”.
Despite not being overtly political, Lady Gaga, got her message across; to 111.3 million people according to Nielsen.
Some of the world’s largest brands also got in on the act.
Audi America’s campaign “Daughter”, whose commitment to gender equality, showed a boxcar race, depicting a victory of a girl driver at the expense of a handful boys alongside a narration of gender battle that had existed for years. The one-minute spot ended with a super that read “Audi America is committed to equal pay for equal work. Progress is for everyone”.
Budweiser, one of America’s most iconic beers, portrayed a story of a German immigrant named Adolph Busch, making his way over to the U.S. over a century and half ago to chase the American dream, spoke about the experience of discrimination felt upon arrival to his adopted homeland. He met with Eberhard Anheuser at a bar in which was greeted by being asked “You don’t look like you’re from around here”. They formed a partnership which became Anheuser-Busch and the spot ended with a message which read “When nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink”. The spot is called “Born the Hard Way”.
Whether the story was factual or fictitious, the spot rode on an issue as relevant today as it was a century ago.
Even a former tech startup like Airbnb, got in on the act. Its 30-second spot called “We Accept” rendered a montage of different nationalities and religions, and in conclusion said “The world is more beautiful the more you accept” and hashtag #weaccept.
The NFL itself was also vocal in its message of unity under the spot called “Inside these Lines”, which tells a story about how achievement can be cultivated by a group of people, no matter what background hailed came from. The spot memorably ends with an aerial view of a map of the United States painted in white on grass at an NFL stadium.
Probably the most notable ad that needs to be mentioned in this article is Coke’s rerun of a 2014 Super Bowl spot called is “America the Beautiful”. If you can’t recollect that ad, it sees a cast of people from diverse background singing America the Beautiful in various languages; English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, etc. The controversial spot even brought about the worst out of people, back then, as it did last Monday. But of course, it truly represented Coke’s multicultural reach across the globe via its message of inclusion.
Another campaign worth mentioning but too controversial to explain in the context of this media piece, is 84 Lumber’s “The Journey Begins”, which can only be concluded on their website journey84.com as it would potentially create friction on a mass scale.
According to IPG Mediabrands’ social listening tool “Prophesee”, 84 Lumber was the most talked about campaign with just under a million mentions through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter globally across multiple languages.
Just the above mentioned spots online has accumulated in excess of 25 million views alone on YouTube.
The brands mentioned here had a specific mandate. It wanted to protect their customer base regardless of race, gender or religious associations, or, it wanted to use the occasion to expand their business beyond their core customer base. Either way, the ripple effect can be felt across the digital world as people engaged online and expressed their own views organically.
In the end, it will take a monumental effort, comparable to Tom Brady’s valiant display on the pitch and The Patriots’ historic comeback, to bring about further change that can foster the message of inclusion, for the sake of humanity and of course, greater business performances for your brands.
Associate Director, Corporate Communication