Did you watch Super Bowl 55 on Sunday night?
For the first time in all the games I’ve watched over the years, I thought there was a meta message presented in both the game on the field and in the advertising on the television.
Let me show you what I mean:
I can’t speak for you, but to me the four best commercials of the night were for T-Mobile, Anheuser-Busch, Jeep, and Toyota.
T-Mobile’s ad featured Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine chatting about the kind of person she’d like to date. Because of a bad cellular connection, Levine only heard parts of her list which led him to introduce Stefani to country music star and Blake Shelton, her co-star on The Voice.
Anheuser-Busch’s ad connected the idea of sharing a beer with someone as the cornerstone of creating human connections.
Jeep’s ad, narrated by Bruce Springsteen, was all about the people of the United States pulling together to take us where we want to go (sort of like what a Jeep is supposed to do, I suppose).
And finally, Toyota’s ad was about a couple adopting a baby with disabilities who eventually grows up to be Jessica Long, Paralympics champion. Toyota’s message of unconditional love was powerfully emotional.
So what do these the ads and the game have in common?
I’m certainly no football genius, but it seemed to me that the Bucs won the game for two reasons: First, their punishing defensive line who worked together to harass and contain Kansas City’s QB Patrick Mahomes. And second, the uncanny connection between Tampa Bay’s quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski. If you don’t know their history, the two of them worked together for nine seasons in New England, playing in five Super Bowls and never dropping below the fourth highest scorers in the NFL. What’s more, Gronkowski actually came out of retirement to play with Brady one more time.
So again, what do the the ads and the game have in common?
It’s simple, they all rely on the same thing – relationships.
Each of these ads are about relationships; Toyota’s parents with their adopted daughter, Springsteen’s soliloquy about our relationships with each other, Anheuser-Busch’s illustration of people spending time together building their relationships, and T-Mobile’s recreation of how Stefani and Shelton started their relationship (they got married on her last birthday, btw) and also about their relationships with their co-star Adam Levine.
And, like the ads, the game was won because of relationships – the Buc’s defensive linesman’s relationships with one another and Brady’s uncanny relationship with his tight end.
Why does this matter to you and me? Because with all we’ve been through in 2020 – the horrific results of COVID-19, social unrest, and political insurrection, what we require to stop the hurting, to heal, and to push forward to a brighter tomorrow are relationships. Exactly what you watched during both the game and the commercial breaks was exactly the message we all need to improve our lives.
To help you do this, I’m planning three new Strategic Roundtables all committed to helping you build lifelong powerful relationships. Each Roundtable is structured to bring people like you together to share their experiences, skillsets, and contacts to help you achieve exactly what you want – and what you need – to prosper.
If you want to discover your next great idea and find the team to help you accomplish it, just click HERE. Because as Bruce Springsteen said, “The very soil we stand on is common ground.”
Interesting take. I immediately noticed the connection between the Jeep ad and the AB spot. I hadn’t thought about their connection to the game itself though that might be owing to me focusing on the commercials more than the game itself. The two spots drew a lot of attention on social media, and among my friends, I think I was one of the few who liked the AB spot more than the Jeep one. In fact I liked it far more than the Jeep spot. I felt the Jeep spot was too on the nose and heavy handed with a message that by its nature required a softer touch. And based on article in today’s Ad Week, the general public agrees. To quote that article:
“In 2021, the message of ‘unity’ is seen as partisan with—depending on your ideology—the opposite side of the political spectrum not contributing to bringing the nation back together,” said Kellan Terry, director of communications at Brandwatch. “Jeep would had to have known that this message and tone would be received as such from the public.”
As soon as you make people think about the partisan divide, even if the message is to try to bridge it, you are calling attention to that divide. And there was so much similar messaging around the whole game, as here is in just about everything these days. Even the game itself was framed in partisan ways. How many people expressed a preference for KC based primarily on a dislike of Tom Brady who has come to represent white privilege for so many, exacerbated by his friendship with Trump, particularly since the alternative was a young, well loved, mixed race superstar. People can pretend that Bruce Springsteen represents the middle, but his middle-ness, just like his resistance to commercial endorsements had a Schrodinger-like quality of only existing as long as it remained unused. Artists like Bruce and Willy Nelson were loved by both sides as long as they kept their political preferences vague. Once they said out loud that they were against Trump, they planted a flag. So, when Bruce says let’s meet in the middle, one side can smugly know he’s on our side while the other smarts with the betrayal of realizing one of their heroes is with the enemy, so that even a call for unity is suspect. Similarly, Bruce waited decades to accept a commercial endorsement, and when he did, it backfired in it’s call to unity and brought embarrassment to him and his sponsor when it was revealed days later than he had a recent DUI.
Annheuser Busch on the other hand presented a valentine to friendship and settled for a much subtler message of unity. It also kept the connection simple. Beer brings us together, and they illustrated it with a few simple vignettes, absent any celebrities. Jeep on the other hand, presented an ode to unity that featured one guy, without another soul in sight, and the guy is of course NOT a regular guy.
The funny thing is, Jeep didn’t need Bruce. Jeep already occupies that brand space of neutrality. It exudes authenticity and is popular on both sides of the divide and until they threw in with Bruce, they were hard to pin in the political spectrum. If there is a lesson to be learned here, it’s that a brand can sit this one out, even though most have shown an inability to resist the urge to make a statement and intentionally or not, pick a side. The night before the Super Bowl, SNL poked fun at this with a super work Cheez-its commercial parody. During the game, as I watched socially conscious ads, I asked myself, is that a genuine expression of brand-consistent sentiment or a Cheez-its. Most were the latter.
Good morning, Mr. Turkel. Just read your Super Bowl commercial thoughts and I must say I don’t agree with your premise. That being, these commercials are the best of the broadcast. These commercials are about relationships. The Bucs won because of the defensive linemen’s relationships with each other and Brady’s relationship with Gronkowski.
In my view, of the 4 commercials you chose, only Toyota’s was about something they believe in and back up consistently (in addition to cars) with their time and money. That being Team USA. Jeep made no such claim. (BTW, the link in your email to that spot no longer works.) AB believes in beer and us drinking it any time whether happy or sad. And we all know that. And T-Mobile, I’m quite sure, hoped we’d laugh along with them at the made up scenario regarding how strong their network is. But generally, we like Stefani and Shelton. So fine.
Only Toyota worked to win the high ground of social relevance by connecting themselves through a great story to something good that they support all day, every day. Jeep didn’t do that. AB didn’t do that. T-Mobile didn’t do that. And the idea that relationships among people represents breakthrough brand thinking seems foolish to me.
In the world of business performance, advertising that relates to the client’s demonstrable values is worthwhile. Trying to demonstrate a value that, near as we can tell, doesn’t exist outside of the Super Bowl seems like a waste of time and energy to me.
And for the Bucs — that was simply a good, old fashioned ass kicking, whether the guys on the D-line like each other or not.
Thanks for weighing in, Mr. Quimby. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts.You say you don’t agree with my premise but I gotta say, I agree with yours.
If you read back through my post, you’ll see I never suggested that any of the ads were authentic nor that they best represented what their companies actually stood for. Truth is, I thought the Jeep ad was heavy-handed and unreal — especially when the protagonist drove off through the snow with the top down on his Jeep (from what I’ve read, that was Springsteen’s actual Jeep, BTW).
By the same token, beer is not really about bringing people together — it’s about making people fat and stupid. And T-Mobile’s good-natured teasing of Blake Shelton was also inauthentic — after all, whether or not Shelton plays twangy music doesn’t mean he’s an unsophisticated rube anymore than Stefani and Levine’s urban vibes suggest that they are sophisticates.
Finally, I don’t know whether or not Toyota supports the paralympics nor disabled people so I can’t speak on the actual authenticity of their advertisement.
But that wasn’t what I was trying to say; my point was simply that all four ads celebrated relationships.
My point about what happened on the field also agrees with what you said — the Bucs did indeed deliver a “good, old-fashioned ass kicking” and you’re right when you say that it didn’t matter whether the guys on the line liked each other or not. But even with my years-ago experience of playing sandlot football as a kid, I know that the team that worked together had more of a chance of winning than the team that was filled with players who did whatever they wanted.
Again, that’s thanks to relationships.
Regarding Skip’s note that the Jeep link didn’t work, I think that’s because Jeep disabled it after it came out that Bruce (Springsteen, not Turkel) had a DUI recently.
I’m going to disagree with both you gentleman about the AB spot. Yes, Annheuser Busch wants us to drink beer whether we’re happy or sad, and the ad was very clear about that. We see a couple who’s wedding has been rained out, a man who has just gotten fired and a group that’s stranded at an airport and in each case we see a shared beer making them feel better about their situation in a very believable (I thought way). And Bruce, I disagree that beer is not about bringing people together or is about making us fat and stupid. Yes it can make us both those things, but at most only one of those is why we drink it. If you drink beer, I’ll bet you drink it in a group setting far more than alone.
What the AB spot does better than the other three (and better than most of the other spots that aired during the game) is position a benefit. A key benefit. Yes, beer can be consumed in depressing solitude and abused but most people drink beer, and associate beer, with happy hour, parties, BBQs etc. And also with commiserating in less happy times.
I liked the Toyota spot and as sponsors of the Olympic team, I guess the touching story of the commercial is related to the car, but it has little to do with the benefit of the car. I drove Toyotas for 16 years and while I didn’t I know o their Olympic sponsorship, I can assure you that if I had known, I would have thought, good for them, but not that I’d feel better about driving their car. It’s a benefit that is just too far removed from the experience.
As or T-Mobile, I thought it was a terrible commercial. What is the benefit they are selling. According to the made up story, another phone company’s product performed poorly and as a result, Gwen Stafani and Black Shelton are now happily married. That kind of makes me want to get a bad phone. 5G is a feature. Love and marriage is a benefit.