Expert Blog

Cars in the Super Bowl spotlight

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The Super Bowl is America’s biggest annual sporting event, by far. And, even for those of us who don’t know the difference between a line-backer and a wide receiver, it’s always a highlight of the television calendar, thanks not only to the spectacular half-time show but also the eye-catching, big budget adverts that air between plays.

This year’s Super Bowl, on Sunday night, was no exception. As always, cars featured heavily in the commercial breaks, and we’ve picked out some of the most significant ads – not just because of the cars they’re advertising, but also because of how they advertise them. 


Kia enlisted Melissa McCarthy, star of Bridesmaids and Ghostbusters, to show off the environmental credentials of its new hybrid crossover, the Niro. The ad’s message? ‘It’s hard to be an eco-warrior, but it’s easy to drive like one.’ It is notable that Kia used its Super Bowl slot to highlight how green its new car is – and they weren’t alone, as Toyota also promoted its hydrogen-fuelled Mirai (‘Its only emission is water’). More and more, being eco-friendly is a selling point for car manufacturers, even in the notoriously gas-guzzling United States. 



Surprisingly for one of America’s largest carmakers, Ford’s advert wasn’t really about its cars. Instead, it focused on the technology and services around its cars: satellite navigation, a remote control app, automatic parking, electric charging, ride sharing, and even bike sharing. They’re all summed up as ‘new ways to help you move through life’, and they are all examples of how the automotive industry is adapting to new realities. 



Audi’s ad was even less about cars than Ford’s. Instead, it was about gender equality. In an incredible sign of social progress, Audi decided to use their minute with the biggest television audience of the year to showcase their commitment to equal pay for women. And we think they did it very effectively, too.

Car ads that barely feature cars were very much a theme of this year’s Super Bowl. As well as Ford and Audi, Honda’s ad used a host of celebrities to reinforce its familiar message of ‘chasing dreams’, while Hyundai’s featured members of the armed forces being reunited with their families (through video-conferencing) to watch the big game. Like Audi’s, it was all about emphasising the company’s values rather than its products.




Of course, there were also ads with the more traditional message: ‘Our cars are cool.’ Both Alfa Romeo’s and Lexus’s fell squarely into this camp. The advert for the new Mercedes-AMG GT Roadster did too, but was worth watching for its tribute to the ’60s classic Easy Rider and the fact that it was directed by the multi-Oscar-winning Coen brothers.

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