Profs call Super Bowl ads 'assaults on Trumpian ideology'

Two Pennsylvania State University professors say many of the commercials featured during the 2017 Super Bowl were just blatant “corporate assaults on Trumpian ideology.”

“In 2017, the Super Bowl’s focus on consumption and advertising connected the nation’s newest holiday to highly charged political dialogues in the United States,” Penn State kinesiology professors Peter Hopsicker and Mark S Dyreson assert in a recent article for The International Journal of the History of Sport.

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“With debates over immigrants, borders, race, and gender issues raging through the American political landscape, major corporations entered the fray with Super Bowl spots that challenged the positions staked out by the recently elected presidential administration of Donald J. Trump,” they continue, citing examples such as an Airbnb commercial opposing Trump’s proposed “travel ban” and a pro-immigration Budweiser advertisement.

Mexican immigration also came up during the game, in the form of an ad produced by 84 Lumber “chronicling the quest of a Latina mother and daughter to [illegally] migrate from Mexico” to the United States, which the professors ranked as “the most provocative of the corporate assaults on Trumpian ideology.”

Because Fox refused to let both parts of the commercial play on air, viewers were directed to tune in online to see how the commercial ended. While the website crashed under the weight of traffic, “when it did work, viewers saw the mother and daughter make it to the United States, only to be confronted by President Trump’s ‘great wall.’”

The pair soon discover, however, that someone had carved a hole in the wall using 84 Lumber’s products, allowing the migrants to pass. The ad ended with a blunt rejection of Trump’s anti-immigration sentiment, saying, “The will to succeed is always welcome here.”

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“The political climate in the country now has provided fertile soil for advertisers to get people to remember their products,” Hopsicker told Campus Reform, noting that he “doesn’t recall” a single commercial that was conservative or libertarian in nature.

"The NFL and the networks want to put their best face forward, but they don't want to taint the day with too much controversy,” he explained, noting that while it’s unclear why conservative viewpoints were underrepresented in commercials, "the NFL is trying to protect their all-American industry," and the network does indeed have control over which ads are played.

Dyreson, the other co-author, told Campus Reform that the preponderance of commercials that were deliberately against Trump came as a surprise, especially since the Super Bowl is often criticized by the left as a “festival of conservatism” that “reifies traditional and mostly repressive power structures.”

On the other hand, Dryerson mused that “Perhaps [the commercials] should not have been so surprising, given the splits that Trump has created among capitalist elites and the suspicion of him both politically and as an entrepreneur among the mainstream of corporate America.”

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Notably, the professors point out that thanks to “the growing globalization of Super Bowl Sunday,” the influence of such ads is not limited to the United States.

Citing research by foreign colleagues, the article asserts that “the Super Bowl was one way that Germans constructed the images, ideas, and symbols that they associated with the U.S.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen