The Ads of Super Bowl LIII
What women want: Less Mel Gibson, more empowerment, nostalgia and beer
For years, we Canadians felt a̶ ̶l̶i̶t̶t̶l̶e̶ ̶b̶i̶t̶ a lot of FOMO when it came to one of the best parts of the Super Bowl — the commercials. Due to broadcasting regulations, we weren’t able to receive the highly produced, star-studded and tear-jerking spots people love to talk about in the office on Monday after the big game. Fortunately, we have the internet (almost 2/3 people search for a Super Bowl ad after it airs) and as of 2015, the CRTC also allowed American ads to be run through Canadian networks. We can now watch a key part of what makes the Super Bowl one of the most watched spectacles in the North American cultural zeitgeist. #bless
While some Super Bowl ads of the past were likely created by Mel Gibson types in What Women Want, female viewers in Canada are expecting more out of advertisers.
Only three in 10 women can identify with the women they see in ads, and 66% feel ads portray too many gender stereotypes.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, not only are almost half of Super Bowl viewers women, but we’re also paying the most attention. In 2017, the NFL estimated roughly 45% of football fans were female and constituted for 49% of the audience of last year’s Super Bowl. And it’s no surprise to us that 27% of women pay more attention than men during game play, and 26.1% are more focused on the ads.
And this year, we we definitely noticed a glimmer of hope in the ads that focused on debunking gender stereotypes and portrayed more successful, powerful women than ever before.
Debunking gender stereotypes
This year, some gender stereotypes were challenged by the Super Bowl’s surrounding entertainment. Super Bowl LIII was the first year that the NFL let male cheerleaders perform at the game, and Pampers featured an ad with a group of nurturing, musical dads led by John Legend. We also saw some trailers teasing out female superhero bad-assery, but the ads that featured strong women with agency were some of the most refreshing. Here are our faves:
Serena Williams is, no doubt, a woman we love who isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in. In Bumble’s Super Bowl spot, she narrates the instances in her life when she took what was hers in life and boldly made moves to get what she wanted — in love, in work and in friendship. The powerful message links perfectly with Bumble’s female-first policy and is a great take on female empowerment, with a hashtag perfectly fit for the tennis star herself.
While some of the dialogue in Sex & the City didn’t necessarily age well, SJP’s drink order sure has. While Carrie was known for sipping her signature Cosmopolitan cocktail, in this spot, she flips the script and orders a beer for a change — a pint of draught Stella Artois. She enjoys it next to “The Guy” (a burly, unkempt Jeff Bridges), as they bond over their matching order. Women, including the most hyper-feminine, enjoy beer too, and at their own leisure.
The spot starts out as a chaotic scene of famous footballers of the last century playing pickup football in a banquet hall setting. While the ball gets passed to one Hall of Famer after the next, the fast-paced story pauses on a young woman, who is actually Samantha Gordon, the 15-year-old superstar of her all-boys tackle football league who literally created a league of her own. She’s politely asked for the ball, in which she competitively replies: “You want this? Come and get it.” And inserts herself into game play with the pros. Get it, girl!
Nostalgic memories for millennial fangirls
In addition to enjoying our game-time beer with Carrie Bradshaw, we saw a few other Super Bowl ads that were almost certainly tailored to the millennial women who remain nostalgic for their teenage years.
We loved the sexy thrillers of the 90s and early 2000s, especially those featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Paying homage to the scream queen’s classics like “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” SMG put herself into a scary, campy situation of 2019 — having such great skin that her phone’s lock screen didn’t recognize her.
What seemed like a fever dream of ours as 13-year-old junk food addicts, this was a real ad that aired this past Super Bowl Sunday. Doritos spiced up the Backstreet Boys’ classic hit, “I Want It That Way” with a hip-hop remixed recreation that featured Chance the Rapper nailing some classic 1999 choreography along with the OG band members themselves.
While not an advertisement, it was a moment that sparked the debate of a double-standard of men’s and women’s bodies. When so many social media sites like Instagram and Tumblr are cracking down on female nudity, Adam Levine’s shirtless display during the halftime show reminded us of Janet Jackson’s, um, “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, and all the pushback that she endured. While Adam will probably come out of this showcasing of a nude, tattooed torso scot-free, it fuels the conversation surrounding the policing of women’s bodies.
Super Bowl ads are a phenomenon that leak into all of North American culture. In many ways, advertisements reflect the ways culture is moving. And, when football is a sport that’s becoming more political than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some advertisers are using their platforms to help drive change forward and not continue to alienate half the NFL audience.
Written by: Guest Author Ally Dwyer-Joyce
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