Once a year, the UK watches in bemusement as all of America becomes suddenly obsessed with a single game of football, but the thing with the Super Bowl is that the sport is only one, tiny part of what makes it such a huge cultural event. Beforehand you have parties to plan, menus to obsess over and bloggers quibbling over the perfect seven-layer dip recipe to read, then afterwards there’s the half-time show and the adverts to obsess over.
The cultural and political significance of the half-time show is already well known (just think of Beyonce launching Formation with an army of women dressed like the Black Panthers, or the fact that people are sniping at Lady Gaga for not making an overt statement against Trump in her show), but the adverts can make just as much of an impact. This year, many advertisers took their slot – a slot that reportedly costs $5,000,000 for 30 seconds – to use it to broadcast messages of equality that counter the angry, hateful messages coming from US politics at the moment.
First of all there was Audi, whose advert was a powerful 60-second film which advocated for gender pay equality.
Then Budweiser’s advert showed a man leaving Germany to travel to America in 1857, where he’s met by angry locals shouting “You’re not wanted here! Go back home!” before founding the brewing company for one of America’s favourite beers. Although the company has insisted that there’s no political motivation behind the ad, it’s quite hard to not contrast its message of love and acceptance with Trump’s recent attempted Muslim ban. It’s certainly a long way from the Budweiser Frogs advert of 1995, anyway.
A company which isn’t at all shy about its political intent, however, is 84 Lumber, whose advert features a Mexican mother and daughter trying to come to the US before reaching a huge wall across the border. They make their way through and the ad ends on the message “The will to succeed is always welcome here.” 84 Lumber weren’t actually allowed to show the ad with the wall because it was too overtly anti-Trump, so instead had to swop it for a barbed wire fence – a move which the company has openly said they’re disappointed with.
Google went with rainbow flags and people of all religions and skin tones coming together as one, Michelin managed to make an advert about something as bland as tyres full of diversity and love, and Coke re-ran an advert from 2014 where people sing America The Beautiful in a multitude of languages despite the fact it pissed off a load of conservative commentators last time.
But no-one was as ballsy as Air BnB, whose ad showed a range of multiethnic faces with the caption “No matter who you are, where you're from, who you love, who you worship, we all belong. The world is more beautiful the more you accept.”
When Trump was elected, many of us felt distraught, but the fact that these brands paid millions of dollars and risked losing a huge amount of their business in order to publicly tell Trump that they don’t agree with him is heartening.