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Brands inject surprise political messages into Super Bowl ads

AFP | Airbnb's message highlighted multiculturalism.

Political messages in several TV ads turned Sunday’s Super Bowl into an unexpected forum for discussing Donald Trump’s controversial presidency.


The Super Bowl is usually an apolitical spectacle of sports and unapologetic commercialism. But brands like AirBnB, Budweiser and 84 Lumber used the broadcast of the fifty-first American football championship, which reached over 100 million US viewers, to share messages about immigration and diversity – some subtle, some explicit.

AirBnB’s ad was perhaps the most explicitly political. The home-sharing platform’s 30-second spot showed a rotating series of faces of different colours, genders, ages and races. The accompanying text read "No matter who you are, where you're from, who you love or who you worship, we all belong."

It ended with the hashtag #WeAccept.

Even Lady Gaga’s halftime performance had a political tinge. Her opening number fused the straightforwardly patriotic “God Bless America” with the Woody Guthrie folk anthem “This Land is Your Land”.

She also recited part of the American Pledge of Allegiance, finishing with the phrase "one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all"--before diving to the stage, Spiderman style.

Guacamole, beer, and immigrants

An ad from the beer giant Budweiser emphasised immigrants. It portrayed the journey of Budweiser co-founder Adolphus Busch from Germany to the US in the 19th century as a prototypical American success story.

Another ad about immigrants, from the home improvement company 84 Lumber, was deemed too controversial to be aired in its original form. The initial version of showed a Mexican mother and daughter crossing the desert only to be stopped at the US border by an imposing wall. Luckily, construction workers have left a giant wooden door in the wall, which the pair push open. “The will to succeed is always welcome here,” reads the ad’s final text.

The Fox network rejected the ad for its Super Bowl broadcast, a representative from Brunner, the agency that developed the spot for 84 Lumber, told the Washington Post. So the agency aired an abbreviated version that left out the wall, and invited viewers to “See the conclusion” online.

Even a comedic spot for avocados took on a political tinge. The ad shows a secret society that can’t help chowing down on guacamole after being submitted to avocado-flavored subliminal advertising. The ad was for Avocados from Mexico, which represents Mexican avocado growers in the US, according to its website.

The ad reminded many Twitter users of President Donald Trump’s repeated promises to build a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Commercialism or commentary?

The ads come just two weeks into Donald Trump’s controversial presidency, during which he issued several executive orders aimed at immigrants and refugees.

Trump's January 27 decree prohibits entry to all refugees, regardless of nationality, for 120 days, and bars Syrian refugees indefinitely.

It also suspends the issuance of visas for 90 days to migrants or visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

On January 25, Trump signed another executive order to carry out his campaign promise to “build a wall” that would stop illegal immigration from Mexico to the US.


The political ads prompted considerable reaction on Twitter.

Conservative political pundit Ann Coulter was not impressed, tweeting that the Budweiser ad was “mostly fiction”.

However, many on twitter saw this year’s Super Bowl as a win for an inclusive vision of America as much as it was a win for the New England Patriots.

Twitter user Simran Jeet Singh, for instance, tweeted: “Thanks for representing diversity, @Airbnb!”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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