Several corporations, including Budweiser, used their Super Bowl ad slots to air videos that promoted inclusion and undermined Trump’s immigration policy.
This year’s Super Bowl made for some great TV as numerous corporations used their ad slots to butt heads with US President Donald Trump on Sunday night – eliciting support from his critics and threats of boycotting from Trump supporters. The game of American football itself – the largest event in the US’s sports calendar – proved to be a nail biter too as the New England Patriots turned their slow start into a heady victory by beating the Falcons 34-28 in the last few minutes of the game.
Every year, millions of Americans gather to watch the event – making ad slots during the game some of the most coveted air time for companies selling consumer products. For many, the ads are as much a part of the experience as the game itself .
While many were expecting half-time performer Lady Gaga – known for being outspoken about her political views – to make an aggressive anti-Trump statement through her performance, it was actually companies like Budweiser, Coca-Cola and Air BnB that really took on Trump’s divisive policies through their ads.
In the ad, Adolphus Busch, one of the founders of Budweiser, is shoved and told to “go back home” as he arrives on US soil for the first time, sometime in the 1800s. He eventually meets and befriends his future business partner, Eberhard Anheuser, in St. Louis. The ad rightly concludes that we all know how this American Dream ended, with the words “When nothing stops your dream, this is the beer we drink.” appearing on the screen.
The ad has been perceived as so ‘pro-immigrant’ that Trump supporters are calling to boycott Budweiser.
Although many scholars and journalists have pointed out that the Busch’s story, as presented in the ad, is mostly fiction, it hasn’t stopped Americans from vilifying one of the US’s most popular brands, not to mention, a cultural icon of sorts.
Coca-Cola aired an old ad that premiered during the 2014 Super Bowl to make a point about diversity and inclusion in the US. The ad features shots of people of varying ages, genders, religions and races engaging with each other happily as they dance, share a Coke, go ice-skating and so on. But it’s really the soundtrack that the ad is set to that has roiled Trump supporters across the country. The video is set to ‘America the Beautiful,’ the US national anthem, being sung in a variety of languages starting from the original English to Arabic to Hindi and even Tagalog.
It concludes with “Together is beautiful” appearing on the screen next to the brand’s logo. Hard to miss the point of this despite the strict guidelines that state commercial time is not meant for “viewpoint or advocacy of controversial issues.” as the New York Times pointed out in their report on Airbnb’s Super Bowl ad.
Airbnb, one of Trump’s strongest corporate critics, also used its Super Bowl slot to undermine Trump’s immigration policy. Although it didn’t originally plan on having a Super Bowl ad, the company’s team threw one together in just three days when they found out there was still an open slot, the New York Times reported.
The 30-second video superimposes faces of men and women from different ethnicities, religious backgrounds and races with text that says “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.”
Soon after Trump’s immigration ban was imposed, Airbnb offered free and subsidised temporary accommodation to travellers from the seven countries that were stranded due to Trump’s sudden executive decision. So the ad comes as no surprise.
On the other hand, Lady Gaga’s message was considered so subtle that Vanity Fair’s headline read, ‘Lady Gaga Made an Edgy Political Statement You Might Have Missed at the Super Bowl’
She kicked off her show by singing God Bless America and then segued into Woody Guthrie’s ‘This Land is Your Land’ which has been a popular choice for people protesting Trump’s travel ban in the past few days. Though her choice of opening songs cannot be construed as anti-Trump, her promotion of inclusion as an American value came through clearly. The message directly contrasts Trump’s rhetoric and his recent travel ban, been dubbed a Muslim ban by many.
Vanity Fair quoted Gaga’s remarks on her performance, “Well, I don’t know if I will succeed in unifying America. You’ll have to ask America when it’s over. But the only statements that I’ll be making during the halftime show are the ones that I’ve been consistently making throughout my career. … I believe in a passion for inclusion. I believe in the spirit of equality, and the spirit of this country as one of love and compassion and kindness. So my performance will have both those philosophies.”
If reactions on Twitter and Facebook are anything to go by, these ads have not succeeded in uniting the US.
Trump himself has remained uncharacteristically silent.