President Trump’s policies had a completely expected effect on the Super Bowl last night. He managed to push the big game’s ads, and the way fans view them, into the realm of politics. Certainly not every company set out to make a statement, but it was almost impossible to watch some of the biggest ads of the night without viewing them as opposition against the new administration.
The game’s biggest and most controversial spot was likely Budweiser’s, which first appeared last week. Titled “Born the Hard Way,” the ad follows Anheuser-Busch co-founder Adolphus Busch on his journey from Germany down to St. Louis, Missouri, where he meets future partner Eberhard Anheuser over a beer.
A spokesman for Budweiser parent company AB InBev insists the ad has nothing to do with today’s political climate, and that it’s “a universal story that is very relevant today.” “There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country,” brand VP Ricardo Marques told Adweek. Indeed, the ad itself was locked in October, well ahead of the election. But, thanks to the ad’s release after the president’s immigration ban and a weekend of protests, observers on the right called for a Budweiser boycott.
American values took on new political weight during last night’s game
The ways Trump’s policies have colored the optics around advertising became a major theme last night. Though many companies reportedly went to great pains to avoid politics, “universal” American values like the importance of family — which typically are the Super Bowl’s bread and better — took on new political weight. Google’s ad, which was originally released last October, scans as more inclusive and deliberately progressive in the current climate.
Coca-Cola’s pre-game ad, which features people singing “America the Beautiful” in multiple languages, originally aired in 2014. It was divisive even in the year it debuted, but in 2017, it feels a good deal more political than last year’s Avengers-flavored spot.
Audi’s ad is pretty clearly feminist in how it addresses sexism:
Even Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, a series that has been in production for months, appears to shine an apocalyptic light on how GOP policies like the global gag rule and threats to defund Planned Parenthood might affect women in the long run:
All this being said, some companies did go out of their way to take jabs at the president. Airbnb, in a spot that aligns with its previous work critical of the new White House, appeared to respond to the recent travel ban. The company told The New York Times that it didn’t intend on advertising at the big game, but scrambled to cut something together Super Bowl in three days when it learned there was ad space left. (It’s worth noting that the ad essentially recuts an older ad released in November to tout the company’s anti-discrimination efforts.)
Hair-care company It’s a 10 trolled Donald Trump’s hair in its spot:
And construction company 84 Lumber’s pro-immigration ad, which depicts a mother and daughter facing a literal border wall, was deemed so controversial that it couldn’t air in its entirety during the game:
Not every company is prepared to go to battle with the president over where the country should head. However, the Super Bowl is on the short list of things considered as American as apple pie, and advertising around the event has generally attempted to reflect viewers’ presumed values. Over the past few years, companies like InBev and Google latched onto inclusivity and social progress as things Super Bowl viewers were more or less willing to consume. Trump has put himself at odds with that particular vision of America, making what would have seemed perfectly middle-of-the-road ads under President Obama (or President Hillary Clinton) more obviously antithetical to “Making America Great Again.” In the end, whether or not these companies intended to make any pointed critiques of Trump, they clearly indicated last night that they consider diversity, women’s rights, and immigrants’ rights as core American values.
Well, those things plus Christopher Walken reciting *NSYNC lyrics.
Update 2:40pm ET: The above article has been updated to clarify that Airbnb’s spot was a recut version of an earlier ad.