I’m not a sportsball person. It’s okay if you are. I know a little about sports–mostly about stand-outs like Chris Kluwe, Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, and Nolan Ryan (and also Nolan Ryan). I’m even more ignorant about football specifically. I couldn’t tell a pass from a fumble, nor a wide receiver from a halfback. I’ve got a vague idea that quarterbacks are important and that Europeans think we’re idjits for calling proper football “soccer.” I say this not to make myself sound superior–we all have our interests–but to introduce my lifelong love of Super Bowl advertisements. I don’t watch the game, but man oh man do I look forward to the ads. These commercials are like leading indicators for where Americans are as a culture; they are a statement about what is important to us right now. Today Lord Snow plays couch potato to marvel at one of my favorites: an ad that brings back to life one of the most important 80s movies I ever saw.
Every Year, a Tradition.
Marketing in general is a big interest of mine and has been ever since that first college course I took about the history of advertising. Big marketing events in particular showcase everything marketers can possibly throw at potential and existing consumers. People go to college for a long time to learn how to capture a brand in just 30 seconds or a single minute, and how to attract and retain customers based on simple, easy-to-remember (and often luridly subliminal) messages. If you’ve noticed that I tend to talk a lot about Christian apologetics in terms of marketing, that’s why.
Advertising companies work all year long–maybe even longer–to bring to life the commercials that run during the Super Bowl. And one can see why. That one sporting event is one of the most-watched televised events of the entire year. One 30-second spot during the game can reach USD$5million–and that’s just the cost of the airtime, not how much the ad might cost to create. Some analysts don’t think these ads are worth the money involved, particularly considering that they don’t generally increase brand loyalty in viewers–others think they’re good if the companies involved can afford them, at least to make the companies’ stock increase in value simply by association with the Super Bowl.
And those commercials then go on to live long, fruitful lives in social media and YouTube for years after the game is long over.
All Summer in a Day.
The usual microcosm of culture occurs in these ads, gathered below. Steve Tyler continues to be the awesomest human alive. Last year’s amusement with Wendy’s Twitter account flares up here in a diss ad they ran against McDonald’s. Chris Pratt guest stars in a polka song about how wonderful beer is. A car ad features superhero Black Panther, whose movie is coming out soon–and he looks good. Matt Damon pitches Stella Artois in service to his water charity. Peter Dinklage has a rap battle with Morgan Freeman. The Old Spice Man shows up in a most unexpected place. Most of it’s very lighthearted or sentimental; little of it backfires (though one that does, for a truck manufacturer, does so dramatically).
Compilation from Funny Commercials, YouTube. The first one made me just tear up. Then I burst out laughing at 5:10’s CYA. This is not a comprehensive compilation. Another follows with IMO funnier ads.
Sometimes the commercials are duds–or worse, controversial–but they’re so popular that a few years ago one service even reversed its DVR programming for that one event on that one day. Usually its DVR could be told to skip recording commercials and only record the actual program users desired, but for the big game they could tell it to skip the program and only grab the commercials!
From CBS News, we learn that advertisements this year were trying to calm and uplift viewers rather than challenge them–which made a spot using a well-beloved vintage teen movie a natural choice:
This is a year where people are feeling a little frayed around the edges because the divisive political environment on both sides,” said Kelly O’Keefe, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter. “They want to feel like there’s something still good in the world.
(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.
[I’m] Just an Eli looking for his Odell.
Nick Kershner, Twitter
This particular commercial wasn’t actually pitching a product, however. It was made by the NFL for the purpose of promoting the next Super Bowl itself. And from what I can see, it’s stolen the show (as well it should)!
“Touchdown Celebrations to Come.”
It’s based on a scene from the movie Dirty Dancing–specifically its final dance number, “Time of My Life.” In it, hero Johnny leads the workers of the resort in a group dance that eventually draws in heroine Baby and many of the staid, 1950s-whitebread guests, while subplots wrap up and everything tidily draws in for a finale.
If this was an actual spoiler for you, then PLEASE see the actual movie anyway; it’s really good. God, I miss Patrick Swayze. He was a classically-trained dancer, by the way, who got into dancing because of a knee injury he got while playing football. Irony abounds…
I saw this movie in 1987 as a teenager. And something about it seriously spoke to me. Baby’s young and idealistic, making a Hero’s Journey that girls like her, like us, almost never got at the time. Johnny is the kind of guy that every girl I knew wanted to fall in love with and marry–though there’s no indication at the end that these two were going to have that white-picket-fence dream-come-true ending. And the problems Baby faced in the movie were problems that were both familiar (how far to go to impress a boy? how much change is okay, and how much is self-destroying? how honest should one be with parents regarding stuff they will not like knowing?) and wildly alien (abortion was legal for us even then–the idea that someone might be butchered and almost die from an illegal one was just so out-there and horrifying). I even identified with her quiet embarrassment over her childhood nickname.
And, yes, I wondered–as many in my peer group did at the time–what would happen to Johnny (and for that matter Penny) after they began to get older, after the arthritis hit their joints and their lifestyles of insouciant peregrination finally caught up to them, though at that age we couldn’t even begin to imagine what middle and old age would bring any more than we could understand the lives of seasonal entertainers at upstate resorts a generation ago.
Baby, though, I had no trouble imagining a future for. I knew she was heading for somewhere like Vassar. She’d become a top-tier lawyer–and maybe even head into politics. Maybe, in her universe, she’d even turn into a serious contender for the highest elected office in the land. And maybe she’d even win it. With her level of determination, she could do anything–just like she finally executed the one dance move that eluded her for the entire movie, a “leap of faith” with her running and leaping into the air to be caught and held up by Johnny. It was the crescendo of a scene that was itself a crescendo.
Someone go catch those ninjas slicing onions in here.
Just Let Him Dance.
It’s funny that on the NFL’s biggest stage, it managed to steal the show from its advertisers.
Kevin Skiver for CBS Sports, February 5, 2018
When I heard the opening strains of the peak-1980s song in this scene, “(I’ve Had) the Time of My Life,” my eyes just got so huge!
It’s an abridged song and dance, but it hits the major beats. One improvised line feels like it came out of the movie–I’d initially thought it was in the script, but it isn’t–when one coach stops another from intervening in the dance by advising him, “Just let him dance.”
Eli Manning takes Johnny’s place, while Odell Beckham, Jr. takes Baby’s–and oh, they do well considering they are not trained dancers. There’s paired and group dances with other teammates, culminating in Odell Beckham, Jr. making the same “leap of faith” that Baby made in the movie. (I understand that there were some wires assisting his dance-partner in holding him up there. I don’t mind.)
The guys in this homage didn’t play in the game itself–they are with the New York Giants, or so I understand–but as far as Twitter is concerned, they won the night. And maybe they’ve also set a precedent “for touchdown celebrations of the future.”
Wouldn’t that be fun to watch?
Oh, and I couldn’t possibly end this post without mentioning the Peter Dinklage ad, either:
Find it at the 3:51 mark.
We’re heading into a brief segue about some more quantum woo I found this weekend, since that’s still on my mind, and then we’ve got an examination of shortcuts–why we take them and how they backfire. See you soon!
Lord Snow Presides!
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Lord Snow Presides… is our off-topic chat post series. Feel free to talk about anything you want here! I’ve started us off with a topic, but you can go anywhere you want. Lord Snow is my sweet, elderly white cat, who doesn’t know anything and yet knows everything.