MAGA-land’s incomprehensible predictions that Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce would rig the Super Bowl and endorse Joe Biden for president in front of 100 million American television viewers in a massive psychological operation have proven to be greatly exaggerated. Most of the time, they kissed a lot.
But that doesn’t mean our country’s divisive politics didn’t flare up during the broadcast. While most of the ads involved the usual self-effacing celebrities asserting their cultural relevance — and some of them were crowd-pleasing and even funny — a number of them addressed some of the most controversial issues of the era: religion, the presidential race. and Bud Light.
As we entered, all eyes were on the latest, the subject of a polarizing 2023 boycott from conservative groups for collaborating with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney on an Instagram campaign to promote March Madness. Sales fell. Kid Rock strafed the Bud Light crates with his machine gun (and managed to hit a few cans). The brand lost its No. 1 status and the company decided to capitulate, despite demographic data showing younger drinkers embrace diversity and inclusion.
As the Super Bowl approached, AB was in a tough spot when it came to advertising. The result was a frenetic Bud Light spot with a warmed-up ’90s quality. It wasn’t all that interesting, but it was fascinating in what it subliminally revealed: a bizarre genie granting Bud slubs- Light their brotherly wishes: to be friends with Peyton Manning; have a bigger biceps; entering the UFC ring alongside its CEO (who slaps his wife) and Dana White; and – most tellingly – being invisible. Could this reflect Bud Light’s own desire to hide from the culture wars?
Another clue that the spot, titled “Easy Night Out,” was old-school: Guest star Post Malone requested that a rabid dinosaur show up at the ’90s movie-style house party at the end of the spot. But really, who were the dinosaurs here?
A second AB spot, promoting Budweiser, also recalled a supposedly simpler time – not the 1990s but the 1890s. AB brought back the Clydesdales in all their soulful, jaw-dropping glory. People love these horses, and just seeing their expressive faces brings onlookers to tears. Titled “Old-Fashioned Delivery,” to make it clearer, it tells the story of a town losing power due to a snowstorm. Horses saved the delivery by pulling a 19th-century beer cart into town. Currier, this is Ives.
It appears the apology was well received by MAGA Land. After the Bud Light ad appeared online last week – and shortly before his meeting with an Anheuser-Busch lobbyist – Donald Trump suggested on Truth Social that Bud Light was “not a Woke company” and deserved a “second chance”. CNBC reports that Dana White himself may have played a key role in Trump’s conversion.
Speaking of conversion: several faiths fought last night for the souls of viewers. As the only place to reach such a massive live audience, several ideologies – including Catholicism, with pitchman Mark Wahlberg, and Scientology – put their $7 million on the line for 30 seconds. But Jesus swept away. Two surprising “He Gets Us” commercials gave it a modern twist. Preaching “love, not hate,” one spot, based on feet rather than fear, showed Jesus washing the feet of various disciples in contemporary settings, including outside a Planned Parenthood center. Some visuals had an alien quality, as if they were produced by AI. A second spot asked viewers to treat everyone like their neighbors.
The “He Gets Us” campaign was launched by Servant Foundation in 2022 – with significant donations from Hobby Lobby and other conservative institutions. This year, it was the work of new nonprofit group Come Near.
It turns out that the message of neighborly love is at considerable odds with “some of the campaign’s major donors and its holding company, which have ties to conservative policy goals and far-right ideologies,” according to CNN . This would include anti-abortion and anti-LGBQT+ groups.
Yet the most stunning and contradictory sneak entry of the evening came in the form of a political ad for independent presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy Jr.
It took an actual animated commercial from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign, which featured a song that kept “Kennedy” on repeat, and simply placed Bobby’s head on top of his martyred uncle’s.
This was disconcerting for many reasons, including outright theft and loss of taste. And the judgment. Above all, Bobby’s political conflict with that of JFK and his fringe views caused his cousins to disavow him.
Then it turned into a social media war.
Almost immediately, Bobby Shriver, son of JFK’s sister Eunice Shriver, posted: “My cousin’s Super Bowl ad used our uncle’s faces – and my mother’s.” She would be appalled by his deadly views on health care. Respect for science, vaccines and health care equity was in his DNA.
He apologized to his family members “if I caused any pain” – and said it was set up by a political action committee, the American Values Super PAC, which is not affiliated with his campaign – but as of this writing, he still has it pinned to the top of his X page, and his press secretary has publicly thanked American values.
You can inadvertently learn a lot about American politics and culture by watching Super Bowl spots. But the “Kennedy family feud” wasn’t on my playing card. Maybe advertisers should stick to superheroes, explosions and allow aging celebrities to shine.
Gn En bus