Every year, regardless of who you are rooting for in the Super Bowl, there is one player you can always count on—the Super Bowl commercials. Super Bowl LI was no exception. Even before the first commercial had formally aired, sneak peeks, previews and even the spots that had been rejected by Fox Network, had started trending or going viral on social media due to the large volume of conversation they were generating. The stakes were high. With 112 million viewers having tuned in for last year’s big game, and more expected for this year, advertisers paid an average of $5 million for a 30-second commercial slot. While SuperBowl LI may be remembered for its thrilling conclusion, the companies that engaged with consumers, reflected their values and weighed in on the pressing social issues of our day—from immigration and gender pay equality to conservation and the arts—made an extraordinary impact.
For those of us watching, it was exciting to see an increasing number of companies choose to engage in the ongoing social dialogue and “Get in the Arena.” As Jean and Steve Case lifted up citizen engagement in their recent blog by calling on citizens to turn intention into action, here we see a prime example of companies getting in the arena by aligning their core values and missions with their external communications. That integration is not only a big win for these brands, but for consumers as well. The 30 to 90 second spots, although brief, offer us a reflection of our times and the ongoing conversations around important issues through the products and brands we use every day.
While it remains to be seen whether these spots ultimately will move consumers to purchase the products that were advertised, they certainly engaged consumers directly. Viewers did not hesitate to show their support or dismay via social media for how brands activated. The conversations these ads spurred are certain to continue for many days to come as calls of everything from newfound loyalty to boycotts of brands were voiced.
Check out these highlights from some of the most compelling, and conversation generating social issue spots from the evening:
Airbnb is an online platform that helps to connect hosts with guests from around the world. The ad titled ‘#WeAccept’ celebrates diversity. “Today we’re setting a goal to provide short-term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need. We’ll start with refugees, disaster survivors, and relief workers, though we want to accommodate many more types of displaced people over time. To help people around the world facing displacement, we’ll work with our community of hosts to find not just a place to stay, but also a place to feel connected, respected, and a part of a community again. In addition, Airbnb will contribute $4 million over the course of four years to the International Rescue Committee to support the most critical needs of displaced populations globally.”
The car maker affirms its support of gender pay equality in this compelling spot that features a father and daughter. The description of the video notes, “As the fearless daughter weaves her way through a field of competitors, her father contemplates whether his daughter’s worth will be measured by her gender through a series of provocative questions. It is a reminder that progress doesn’t belong to any one group. Progress is for everyone.” Audi also cites as supporting evidence for their stance, the April 2016 report by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee that found that women were paid 21% less than men on average.
The well-known beer producer sought to tell the “story of our founder’s ambitious journey to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers.” Viewers see the co-founder of the iconic company immigrating to the United States from Germany in the 1800s. He is faced with a number of challenges, including most notably, discrimination. These hardships do not deter him and with perseverance and determination, he is able to triumph, creating one of the country’s most popular beers.
The building and construction company showed a “mother and daughter’s symbolic migrant journey towards becoming legal American citizens.” Rob Schapiro, chief creative officer of 84 Lumber’s ad agency Brunner, told Business Insider that, “[The message behind the ad] is that in this great land of opportunity, 84 Lumber is a company of opportunity. With this expansion will come an ongoing recruitment campaign, and on this journey we depicted characters who embody the traits and characteristics they are looking for in their people: strong will, determination, and hard-working people.” While the original ad was deemed too political in nature by Fox, viewers were prompted to visit 84 Lumber’s website to see how their journey ended… check out the full piece here.
The specialty water company debuted this commercial featuring a soundtrack by John Legend as a way to celebrate the beauty of art in our lives. The video description notes, “inspiration rain[s] down over an entire city” spreading beauty and hope through art. The art in the piece ultimately transforms the city and the people that live there.
A replay of its 2014 Super Bowl ad, the beverage maker shared its message of diversity, multiculturalism and unity in this optimistic look at what makes America beautiful. The company also shared on twitter this message, “Today millions cheer together, because together is beautiful. #AmericaIsBeautiful”
And last, but not least of course is a special spot aired by the NFL, which notes, “inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there is more that unites us.” While the anthem script is being read, the lines on the field come into focus and show viewers the outline of the United States on the football field underscoring the importance of overcoming our differences as a country to celebrate the best of America.
You can find all of the commercials from Super Bowl LI here.
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