The real game changer: Super Bowl ads

By Hannah Stein, JWI 

The day after Super Bowl XLIX, people aren’t just talking about the athleticism. The commercials alone draw in millions of viewers, and this year (in our opinion!) stole the show. From the NO MORE campaign’s chilling 911 audio to Always’ “#LikeAGirl” for female empowerment, advertisers evoked emotions that most viewers were not expecting.

Domestic violence and sexual assault PSAs are new to the NFL this year. After video footage of Ray Rice punching his then-fiancée (now wife) leaked in July, league commissioner Roger Goodell partnered with NO MORE to take a stand. As a result, every NFL broadcast of the 2014-15 season aired PSAs to combat domestic violence and sexual assault, giving the issue a wide, national audience.

And then Super Bowl XLIX advertisements took sensitizing gender and women’s empowerment to another level.

Themes of this year’s commercials included empowerment, domestic violence awareness and the influence of fathers. Yes, the clichéd Victoria’s Secret ad and others that objectify women slithered into the lineup, though these were impressively overshadowed by more significant messages. Nissan and Dove each portrayed the importance of fathers in children’s lives, shifting the traditional focus on mothers as primary caretakers. The Always brand tackled girls’ drop in self-esteem when they reach puberty, challenging stereotypes of female inferiority by asking what it means to do something “like a girl.” Even Coca-Cola addressed cyber bullying, preaching the that “the world is what we make it.”

Why the sudden shift in tone from last year’s game?

The explosion of public awareness of domestic violence in the NFL has made the issue impossible for the league’s leadership to ignore. As a result of numerous high-profile cases, relationship violence is finally receiving the national attention it deserves. From incidents involving Ray Rice to Adrian Peterson, football fans who might not have previously considered the magnitude of domestic violence and sexual assault are forced to confront these issues.

Raising such awareness has also influenced the challenge of gender stereotypes, redefining “what makes a man stronger” and what it means to “throw like a girl.” The last six months mark a pivotal change in societal views of domestic violence and gender roles. With its national reach, it’s clear that the NFL has played a role. We’re wondering, what else do you think has induced this shift in focus?

Let us know what you think! Comment here or contact me at hstein@jwi.org to weigh in on this year’s Super Bowl ads.

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