Activism Sells on Super Bowl Night

This past Sunday night, draped in New England Patriots gear, I sat with friends and watched as my home team captured the coveted NFL Super Bowl trophy. Celebrating Super Bowl night has become a tradition of mine. I sport Tom Brady’s jersey (regardless of whether the Patriots are in the final), eat greasy food and tune in as the best NFL teams of the season compete for the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Yet, like many others, I especially look forward to the commercials that air throughout the game. In the past, the commercials that have caught my attention are the humorous Dorito gags or the heartwarming Budweiser ads involving Clydesdales and golden retriever puppies, an irresistibly adorable pairing. However, I was drawn to a different type of commercial this year. Two ads, in particular, resonated with me due to their political and humanitarian undertones.

The first was a commercial aired by Budweiser. The 60-second ad depicted company co-founder Adolphus Busch’s journey from Hamburg, Germany to New Orleans in the mid 19th-century. Images of hardship, danger and xenophobia poured across the screen as Budweiser reminded viewers of the classic tale of the American Dream. The second ad was sponsored by a Pennsylvania-based building supply company, 84 Lumber. The company was only able to air a portion of their ad on Sunday night because Fox deemed the commercial “too controversial for TV.” However, the company directed viewers to an online site to see the commercial in its entirety. The ad instantly piqued my interest so I immediately visited the URL plastered across the television screen. I was not disappointed. The ad portrayed the tale of a mother and her young daughter’s trek across Mexico in hopes of finding a safe haven in the United States. The mother-daughter duo endured hardship after hardship including blistering heat, extreme danger and sacrifice. When the two finally reach the United States’ border, they are met by a wall, dividing the two countries. Heartbroken, the brave mother breaks down and cries. At this moment, the daughter hands her crestfallen mother a hand-made American flag she had made during their journey. The two suddenly hear a car engine in the distance, follow the noise and notice a door among the wall that will allow entry to the United States. The commercial ends with the two entering the United States and closes with the text, “the will to succeed is always welcome here”, across the screen. The two ads really struck a chord with me. Both had minimal dialogue and limited theatrics yet they were able to send an incredibly powerful message of activism.

As a result of their courageous and compassionate advertising campaigns, both companies have faced backlash from Donald Trump supporters. Many conservative consumers have called for a ban on Budweiser products and have accused Lumber 84 of supporting illegal immigration. However, the two companies stood by their ads. Lumber 84 proudly proclaimed that “the journey of the mother and daughter symbolize grit, dedication and sacrifice. Characteristics that we look for in our people at 84 Lumber.” Before this past Super Bowl, I had never heard of 84 Lumber and was surprised that they could even afford an ad during the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, their strategic and powerful message has had a lasting impact. I applaud companies, such as Budweiser and 84 Lumber, who knew that issues surrounding immigration were too important and although the Super Bowl is meant to be a time of celebration, the issue could not be ignored. They risked public ridicule and backlash for the sake of furthering change, thus demonstrating the true meaning and purpose of activism. Bravo!

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