Super Bowl advertisements are part of the allure of the Super Bowl. From their typical comedic focus to their appeals to the patriotism in each of us, the ads draw the attention of even non-football fans. However, this year’s commercials had a new twist that may have drawn in even more attention. Whether directly or indirectly, commercials from companies ranging from Audi to Avocados From Mexico reflected themes related to the newly elected President Donald Trump’s ideas and recent executive orders.
While some broadcast networks, such as Fox, stated that they do not sell advertising time to commercials advocating specific viewpoints, it was hard for viewers of the Super Bowl to refrain from drawing parallels between the ads shown and today’s tumultuous political arena.
Among the most notably political commercials were those from Coca-Cola and Airbnb. The Coca-Cola advertisement, while reused from the 2014 Super Bowl, had an entirely new meaning to viewers this year. It featured people of diverse backgrounds, speaking different languages, all singing “America the Beautiful.” The revival of this ad was timely as it followed Trump’s proposed travel bans and reminded the American people that our country is truly a country of immigrants.
In a similar vein, Airbnb’s ad featured the faces of diverse individuals with the words, “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept,” streaming across the screen and ending with #WeAccept. This ad more broadly touched upon the importance of embracing difference in the American population.
Anheuser-Busch was another company that made headlines this Super Bowl, even though the company issued a statement explicitly stating that the intent of the ad was not to address the current political climate. The ad focused on its founder’s immigration to America, which drew parallels that many viewers could not ignore. Themes in the ad include the melting-pot roots of America and immigrants’ pursuit of the American dream.
These ads force us to ask ourselves: has the American population become so polarized that now even our companies need to take sides as marketing ploys? It is becoming more and more challenging for companies to avoid addressing the political atmosphere that their consumers inhabit. Therefore, we are beginning to see the latest trend in advertising—connecting with consumers on the social issues that dominate their lives.
The atmosphere in America has become so politically charged that consumers are looking for brands that align with their own values, rather than purchasing products based on quality or use-value. This shift in consumer behavior creates new problems. If companies begin taking sides on controversial political issues, they risk losing the support of those who do not agree.
Super Bowl advertisements have the ability to reach a wide audience and spread messages of love and acceptance, which are increasingly important in today’s political climate. However, it is essential that these advertisements do not further polarize the American people.