Super Bowl ads went political this year, with immigration and diversity championed in between the American Football action.
On the pitch, the New England Patriots staged a dramatic comeback rally to defeat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime at Super Bowl 51.
But off the pitch, the ads were equally dramatic, with Budweiser sparking calls for a boycott from Donald Trump supporters with an ad that featured a politically-charged immigration theme.
The cinematic 60-second ‘Born The Hard Way’ spot captured the pre-game buzz by chronicling co-founder Adolphus Busch’s journey from Germany to St Louis in 1857.
The man jumps off a burning steamboat and is told “You don’t look like you’re from around here” and “Go back home” before catching a glimpse of Budweiser’s iconic Clydesdales mascots and meeting fellow immigrant Eberhard Anheuser.
The theme touched a raw nerve amid US President Donald Trump’s tough stance on immigration and his order to temporarily ban immigrants from seven countries that are majority Muslim.
The beer company billed the ad as the “the story of our founder and his pursuit of the American Dream” and it was one of the most-watched spots ahead of the game.
The feel-good story about a German immigrant trying to find his way in America might not have raised eye brows in previous years. However, with the turbulent political climate in the US, the ad is suddenly being condemned as being a political statement.
When Busch finally reaches the United States’ shores, he’s greeted with discriminatory comments about his German heritage. Viewers can hear Americans telling the immigrant, “Go back home,” and, “You’re not wanted here.”
Speaking to Adweek, Ricardo Marques, vice president of marketing for Budweiser, said the commercial is “super relevant,” given Trump’s actions regarding immigration.
It’s true, Adolphus Busch made an incredible journey to this country, and that’s really what this is about. It’s about his vision, his dream, everything that he does to achieve that. Even though it happened in the 1850s, it’s a story that is super relevant today. That’s what we’re honing in on; it’s the pursuit, the effort, the passion, the drive, the hard work, the ambition — that’s really what this is about more than anything else.
However, Marques said it is just a coincidence the ad has debuted on the heels of the president’s decision to freeze the U.S.’s refugee program and temporarily ban immigration from several countries.
“There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country,” he said. “We believe this is a universal story that is very relevant today because, probably more than any other period in history, today the world pulls you in different directions, and it’s never been harder to stick to your guns.”
The furore highlights the delicate balancing act facing advertisers amid a divisive political climate since Trump took office.
Paying $5m (£4m) for 30 seconds to capture more than 110 million expected viewers, advertisers have had to walk the line with ads that appealed to everyone while avoiding offence.
Here’s our round up of the best Super Bowl ads of 2017:
Airbnb’s ad was one of the more overtly political, showing a variety of different faces with the tagline “We accept”.
This funny commercial for played off Christopher Walken’s levity with and N’sync song from 17 years ago. Sitting on a couch next to a silent Justin Timberlake, all the legendary actor said a few words from ‘N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” to create one of the night’s funniest commercials.
Melissa McCarthy helped Kia have the best car ad of the night, using the car to save the environment.
Avocados From Mexico
This 30-second spot for the vegetable brand didn’t need any star power to make it one of the night’s funniest. Jokes about faking the moon landing and there only being “49 shades of grey” landed perfectly, and a quick cameo from Jon Lovitz helped make this ad one of the Super Bowl’s best.
T-Mobile recruited Kristen Schaal for two ads, both of which parodied Fifty Shades of Grey by depicting Schaal’s character as a masochist who loves receiving pain from her phone company’s data plans.
Web design firm Wix recruited Gal Gadot and Jason Statham in this entertaining action scene, directed by Louis Leterrier.
“We have broken our own records with this campaign including the numbers for viewing and overall organic reach, and our social media has surpassed all of our previous pre-game Super Bowl metrics,” said Omer Shai, CMO at Wix. “Our video was produced in vibrant cinematic form and shared widely via social channels, as well as traditional media and broadcast outlets. We have continued with multiple live events generating thousands of customer interaction opportunities and amazing engagement. This whole campaign has been about the Wix customer and how it is our ultimate goal to enable them to succeed, while never missing an opportunity to have fun.”
The campaign, including live updates and contests, continued throughout the big game on Wix’s Facebook page and Twitter channel.
Mr. Clean turned sexy in this amusing ad that shows a suburban housewife just can’t resist a man who cleans.
The car maker recruited nine starts including Tina Fey and Steve Carell, appearing in their old high school yearbook photos with empowering words about chasing your dreams even when the odds are against you.
National Geographic used its ad to promote its new scripted series called Genius, starring Geoffrey Rush as Albert Einstein.