Super Bowl Sunday has become known as one of the great US American pastimes. Along with the tradition tied to this event comes an immense economic opportunity. Despite the race-based controversy regarding the NFL the past few years, it remains the most lucrative television sporting event in history. Companies are prepared to spend $5.6 million dollars for 30 seconds of air time while the average US American spends $80 prepping to watch the game – adding up to $17.2 billion dollars in total. An immense opportunity, indeed! So, while many may be watching for the game or the impressive halftime show – the commercials reflect the big names in advertising and, more importantly, their take on modern culture. Now, with some added comments from us here at ECCO, multicultural experts from C+R Research, a marketing insights firm in Chicago, break down how – and if – the coveted Super Bowl commercials were diverse and, moreover, inclusive.
Among three of the C+R senior multicultural researchers, there was a general consensus that there were a few lukewarm wins. Sabra Hummus featured drag queens for the first time, Lil Nas X danced for Doritos, and Ellen Degeneres and her wife Portia talked to Alexa for Amazon. Researcher Rossi noted that although this year’s ads included the most LGBTQ stars and narratives, the content of the commercials were not at all queer: sticking to conventional, hetero-normative narratives.
Similarly, Erika Patino singles out the “Typical American” Budweiser commercial as an uncomfortable attempt to universalize and apoliticize sensitive, real issues. She writes that by showing vignettes of people “…clothing a homeless man, putting out a raging California fire, helping a stranger push his vehicle during a snowstorm, and an African American male offering ’Free Hugs’ to a line of armored police officers during a protest while a narrator describes stereotypes of the ’Typical Americans’ in a manner intended to convey irony…” commercializes real inequalities and social issues US Americans face.
Cynthia Nuñez Schaffer mentioned the importance of this year’s Super Bowl as historic: hosting a half-time show with a full Latinx musical line-up. Jennifer Lopez even referenced the crisis at the nation’s border by placing cages on stage. A surprising win for inclusivity on one of the largest platforms available.
One of the ads did get the inclusivity approval from all three researchers: Olay’s ad including women of different ages and backgrounds. Why? Not only did Olay have a diverse cast, but they included a call to action to viewers: with every tweet including the #MakeSpaceforWomen, Olay promised to donate to the organization Girls Who Code. This act of consumer participation, follow through and dedication to a cause is a prime example of what inclusivity – rather than simple stats and quota-based diversity – can look like for companies.
So, all in all, the Super Bowl may be the television event of the year, but when it comes to the advertising, we are only lightly stepping in the right direction. Let’s support advertising that informs so consumers will respond to full commitment, reflecting a culture in which we all hope to live.
Deggans, Eric. “Super Bowl Ads 2020: Strange, Serious, Smaaht, And So Very Expensive.” NPR, NPR, 3 Feb. 2020,
“Home.” C+R Research, www.crresearch.com/
“Super Bowl.” NRF, nrf.com/insights/holiday-and-seasonal-trends/super-bowl.