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        Super Bowl LV: The Super Bowl of LoVe and Nostalgia

        February 8, 2021 By Drs. Linda and O.C. Ferrell

        All News



        The metaphor for our country right now is that we win when we’re willing to step back and realize just how fortunate we are, and this year’s Super Bowl’s messaging was ‘spot on.’

        This year’s Super Bowl was steeped in messages about both great progress and personal tragedy as we continue to face a year-long worldwide pandemic that has reset virtually every element of how we think about life. The overarching theme this year was about love, appreciation, caring and nostalgia. It started with Jennifer Hudson singing “Stand by Me” in the kick-off show and acknowledging the work of doctors and the many first responders who have helped us navigate these difficult times. There were references to Vince Lombardi, “…that moment when we work our hearts out…it’s not whether we get knocked down, but, whether we get back up.”


        Dr. Linda Ferrell

        The physical audience for the game was 22,000, of which 7,500 were vaccinated “heroes” – a group of health care workers being thanked for all they have done for us this past year by enabling them to attend in person. The NFL itself stepped into the conversation by donating $250 million to social justice initiatives while also inviting a handful of law enforcement heroes from Washington, D.C. to attend the game in a private box.


        Dr. O.C. Ferrell

        How did marketers participate in this year’s “Academy Awards of Sports” show up? Quite well! Take the earlier moves by Anheuser Busch to not advertise their iconic Budweiser brand and to instead donate what is expected to be millions to COVID-19 vaccination awareness. Even the Sykes building in downtown Tampa, also known as the ‘beer can building’, carried the message “It takes all of us – Thanks to our hometown heroes.” Companies that stepped forward with positive messaging included Indeed, the job placement giant, which promoted that we all need to rise together though sharing job and promotional opportunities.

        While in past years advertisers had shied away from late game advertisements with serious messages, this year some of the most powerful ads came late in the game. The Jeep spot, featuring the universally popular “spokesman for our times” Bruce Springsteen, provided an iconic look at our times and encouraged us to ‘find the middle.’ He offered that there is “hope in the road ahead” and that we need to celebrate “The Reunited States of America.” Bass Pro and Cabela’s reminded us that “we need nature to help heal and connect with one the ones we love the most and provided a loving look at family and hope for the year ahead.”

         bossThe two ‘flat out’ most creative ads were those featuring Matthew McConaughey and Jason Alexander. In the Flat Matthew ad for Doritos noting how he’s been out of sorts in 2020 and in the adventures of Jason Alexander’s hoody for the Tide Hygienic Clean ad, we were reminded of how our feelings and focus in life have changed this past year. Vroom reminded us that we don’t have to go to a dealership to buy a car.

        Wayne and Garth, of Wayne’s World fame, let us know that Uber Eats is there for us as we continue to survive in a world where restaurants are engaging with us differently and encouraging support for local businesses.

        edThe nostalgia continued with the Cadillac Lyric giving Winona Ryder (Kim) and Johnny Depp’s (Edward) son Edgar the ability for freedom through a driverless car in this nod to 31-year-old Edward Scissorhands movie. Dolly Parton brought back memories from 41 years ago of Nine to Five with ‘5 to 9’ and let us know that we can take control of our lives and put in time on side gigs in addition to our day jobs on behalf of Square Space. WeatherTech reminded us that they don’t have to bring their supply chain back to America because they never left.

        In the end, the messages of hope, endurance and success were captured in the Michelob Ultra ad looking at successful athletes over the decades from Billie Jean King to Arnold Palmer to Serena Williams. Does winning make you happy or do you win because you’re happy? Great question to pose these days, right?

        In the end, Tom Brady won his 7th Super Bowl – an unimaginable achievement given the fact that he now has more Super Bowl wins that any other NFL TEAM! Is he planning to retire? No, he announced during post-game interviews that not only is he going to Disneyland, but he plans to be back next year leading the Buccaneers. With one of the oldest coaches to win a Super Bowl leading one of the oldest quarterbacks to appear in the game during one of our most difficult times in history, the impact couldn’t be clearer. The metaphor for our country right now is that we win when we’re willing to step back and realize just how fortunate we are, and this year’s Super Bowl’s messaging was ‘spot on.’

        Dr. Linda Ferrell is the John Roth Family Faculty Fellow of Marketing and Business Ethics at the Harbert College.
        Dr. O.C. Ferrell is the James T. Pursell, Sr., Eminent Scholar Director of Center for Ethical Organizational Cultures at the Harbert College.