As remarkable as it seems, Super Bowl LI has proven that many corporations actually have disdain for their customers, and are only interested in their business if their customers are willing to change how they think on social issues, even if that has nothing to do with the product they sell.
Take for example the once-famous Budweiser brand. Last week the Wall Street Journal ran an article describing how this once staple of the average American’s refrigerator has seen a long trend of diminishing sales. Who is Budweiser’s target market? Working class Americans in suburban and rural locales. Who are the same people who came out in droves to elect Donald Trump, driven by concerns over jobs, cultural decline, and an immigration system that seemingly has no rules or limitations.
So how does Budweiser connect with its customers? By running a not-so-subtle 60-second spot during the Super Bowl reminding everyone that Budweiser’s founder, Adolphus Busch, was an immigrant. Not sure why Adolphus Busch coming to America in 1869 would inspire you to drink a Budweiser today, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to politely tell us that they find our current President icky. Although this ad tracked well with USA Today’s Super Bowl ad meter, it seemed way out of touch with its target market. Budweiser, which is now owned by InBev, is no longer even an American corporation as it is owned by Belgians. In honor of that, perhaps they should have run a commercial extolling the virtues of emigration from the United States by those disgusted with recent election results.
The same holds true for 84 Lumber, which had originally submitted such a blatantly political commercial Fox rejected it. Its resubmitted commercial focused on immigration and created lots of buzz and publicity for 84 Lumber. Nothing of course makes one think of buying lumber more than immigration, right? Not quite, but again selling lumber wasn’t the point. The point was to shame Trump voters. Despite all the hype the commercial created, I’m not sure it connected with its core customers. I imagine independent contractors buy a heck of a lot of lumber, and many independent contractors have experienced wage stagnation due to excessive immigration that has flooded the building market with cheap labor, which they now have to compete against.
Then, of course, there was the Audi commercial that paid homage to America’s alleged gender inequality. In the commercial a father laments having to tell his daughter that “She will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets.” Well, that’s a nice thought, Audi, and awfully insulting to every American viewer, as if that’s the way most of think. Are they trying to shame us into buying a car? When Audi has the moral courage to run an ad like this in a place like Saudi Arabia, then we’ll reconsider whether they can lecture us.
One could go on, of course, with other commercials such as Coca Cola and Airbnb, but the point becomes redundant other than to say one misses the day when companies tried to sell us a product, without thinking it was their place to try to manipulate how we feel about politics. But politics has seeped into everything these days, including sports. That is why I found it refreshing, whether you like them or not, how the New England Patriots handled the intrusion of politics in this year’s football season.
Allegedly the team owner Robert Kraft, Head Coach Bill Belichick and Quarterback Tom Brady are Trump supporters, or at least friendly with Trump. I say “allegedly,” as I really don’t know, as all three despite hounding questions from the media have gone out of their way not to discuss politics, which it is the way it should be. The Patriots, after all, are a football team, and fans from of all stripes and political affiliations in the New England region should feel at ease rooting for them without having to worry about how a football team stands on social issues. But such sentiment these days makes one a fuddy-duddy.
It was, however, not without some irony and satisfaction that the poster boy for inflicting social justice into sports, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, had to present the Lombardi Trophy to the Patriots. Aside from the Deflategate lunacy, this season Goodell also justified players taking a knee during the National Anthem and he even took some unsolicited shots at the current Commander in Chief. Talk about Karma. The booers were too kind.
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