In Review

The political Super Bowl ads that take on Donald Trump

This Sunday, when millions of Americans tune in to the big game, top brands will be taking aim at the new president

Budweiser advert

This weekend's Super Bowl is about so much more than the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots, although the two teams will provide the headline act at the NRG Stadium in Houston. The Super Bowl is also a battleground for advertisers as they unveil new campaigns and fight for exposure during the most-watched TV event of the year in the US.

"The Super Bowl is appointment viewing each year for football fans, pitting the final two teams standing against each other to determine that season's NFL champion," says CBS. "But for non-football fans, the Super Bowl is also a must-watch experience, if for nothing else than the ads throughout the game."

A 30-second spot during the game costs more than $5m, it adds.

Each year the advertisers pull out the stops, but this time there is an added layer of intrigue thanks to Donald Trump's presidency. As industry magazine Marketing Week says, brands and ad agencies are "primed to touch on the political tensions that currently engulf the US".

Top of the list is Budweiser's annual Super Bowl offering.

"Bud is no stranger to making ads that pull at heartstrings," says Forbes, but this year its ad "appears to speak squarely to President Donald Trump and his anti-immigration policies".

The ad follows the fortunes of an immigrant who arrives in the US only to be greeted with hostility and told to 'go home'. It later transpires the young man is Adolphus Busch, the founder of Bud brewer Anheuser-Busch.

"The ad is certainly timely given Trump's immigration ban," says Forbes. "It's also a gamble for Anheuser-Busch as it could create a backlash."

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Budweiser isn't the only brand making a political point, says Marketing Week. Audi's ad features a young girl beating a field of boys in a go-kart race and "asks strong questions about why men and women do not enjoy equal pay", says the magazine. 

"The ad has already angered some Trump supporters, who have described Audi as pushing out 'feminist propaganda'. But at a time when hundreds of thousands of women have protested against Trump due to their fears of losing many basic rights, such as the right to an abortion, the ad feels poignant."

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Another car marque, Kia, also appears to tackle politics, albeit in a more slapstick manner, as Hollywood star Melissa McCarthy ineffectively battles to save the planet.

"The ad ends with the line 'It's hard to be an eco warrior' amid a political climate where Trump is expected to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency," says Marketing Week. "Trump has also previously suggested global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese."

Others are not so sure. The ad "takes no political stand. It's absurdist and adventurous," says Variety. "At a time when the motives of the media and major corporations are under nonstop scrutiny, brands have to be aware of the potential for backlash."

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Could another company also be taking a sly dig at the new president? "Super Bowl viewers who watch the ad for Avocados from Mexico may wonder if the guacamole they're snacking on will soon cost more, as the Trump administration has floated the possibility of a tariff on imported Mexican goods to pay for the wall," says USA Today.

The company's ad features a secret society, "fake news" and conspiracy theories.

"While the ad's connections with a Trump America aren't as obvious as the other three, it does have similarities to the current political climate, with many Americans concerned at the makeup of their president's cabinet," says Marketing Week.

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At least one ad has been ejected from the game, reports NBC. It says building supplies company 84 Lumber has "reportedly been sent back to the drawing board" because its ad, which shows "a Spanish-speaking mother and daughter confronting a border wall between the US and Mexico", was deemed "too controversial". An edited version will air on Sunday night.

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