Ram, the biggest loser from this year’s Super Bowl

Maddie Boone, Senior Writer

Super Bowl LII on Feb. 4 showcased a great victory, but also a miserable fail. The Philadelphia Eagles triumphed over the New England Patriots in a close but well-fought victory. Meanwhile, Ram Trucks delivered one of the greatest failures of a Super Bowl commercial this year, debatably of all time.

The Ram truck was advertised as a truck “built to serve” and featured American citizens working hard in their homes and jobs with a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sermon playing in the background. The “Drum Major Instinct” sermon was used in this context to sell cars by saying how we all can be great by serving one another and our country, with a truck that is “built to serve” us. Ram used King’s words on the value of service in an attempt to sell trucks.

Using a civil rights hero to sell cars is in and of itself ridiculous. However, the situation gets even more ridiculous when we remember that King was also a major advocate for economic justice and was against big business.

To point out the true irony of this commercial and the epic failure that it was, Nathan Robinson, the Editor-in-Chief of political magazine Current Affairs, took the commercial and switched out the “Drum Major Instinct” sermon for another one of King’s sermons in which he denounces capitalism and even specifically chastises car commercials.

In the sermon used as a replacement, Dr. King says, “Now the presence of this instinct explains why we are so often taken by advertisers. You know, those gentlemen of massive verbal persuasion. And they have a way of saying things to you that kind of gets you into buying… In order to make your neighbors envious, you must drive this type of car… I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car… I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I’m going to continue to say it to America.”

It is clear that Ram was trying to take advantage of the fact that many Americans do not know or understand the extent of King’s political protests. This absurd use of Dr. King has certainly caused an uproar among viewers and the greater media. One Twitter user even remarked, “MLK wanted equal rights and for me to drive a Dodge Ram.”

Tim Calkins, Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, noted how given the current political climate in the United States, “this was a high-risk move, and it’s clearly not going over very well.” This was especially a high-risk move given the divisions within the National Football League this season, as many players have chosen to kneel during the national anthem to bring attention to the racial injustices and police violence faced by many black Americans.

Eric Tidwell, the licenser of King’s estate, said that they “found that the overall message of the ad embodied King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.” So despite the fact that the intent of the advertisement may not have been malicious, the intent and impact in this case were quite different. The timing of the advertisement and the manipulation of King’s words could not have been more wrong.

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