I didn’t find Boston.com’s coverage of the Super Bowl to be anything too special – especially not for a news site dedicated to Boston news. While they posted articles and updates frequently before, during, and after the Super Bowl, their content was mostly in brief, unsubstantial posts, and often after the Globe or other sites had already released the same information.
However, I did notice two articles posted by Boston.com, the Best Ads of the Super Bowl and Super Bowl Ads Go Political in a Big Way, which led me to look into the Super Bowl’s advertisements more broadly.
Sixteen days after Trump’s inauguration, the anticipation of Sunday’s Super Bowl game between the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons had become linked with the political heat of the nation.
In the past few months, actresses and pop stars, including Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga, have voiced their concerns for the nation under Trump’s administration, and citizens have shown widespread acts of activism and protest. The national women’s march, Trump’s immigration ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, his Cabinet nominations, and other political activity has dominated the media and spread to other aspects of American culture.
As the Super Bowl remains the largest sports event in America, rates of viewership and cost of advertising were the highest in history, despite an overall decrease in viewing during the regular football season, according to Forbes. Many commentators linked these statistics with the political events in the past two weeks. Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady’s support and friendship with President Trump also raised questions regarding their relationship and political opinions.
Collectively, America’s politically charged atmosphere has infiltrated this year’s most popular sports and entertainment events to become – for better or worst – strongly infused with national politics.
In particular, company advertisements with seemingly political messages received controversial reactions. Budweiser, with a legacy of popular Super Bowl advertisements, aired a commercial following Founder Busch’s immigration from Germany to the U.S. with a dream to produce Budweiser beer (here). Many portrayed the ad as a comment of opposition to Trump’s Executive Order to ban immigrants from the U.S. Another company, 84 Lumber released an ad deemed “too controversial” by Fox Sports to air. In the ad, a Mexican mother and her daughter begin a journey through their country to the U.S./Mexico border. The full story, including a depiction of Trump’s border wall, was available on 84 Lumber’s website for viewers to finish watching at halftime (here).
While these and a few other commercials stood out as politically engaging and controversial, articles such as Boston.com’s Best and Worst Super Bowl ads noted ads that remained light-hearted and unbaised, perhaps chosen in part due to the polarized political environment in the nation currently.
Americans have reacted to the bolder commercials in a variety of ways – the Twitter hashtag #BoycottBudweiser was trending after their ad was released, alongside those who voiced support of the company and its political stance.
However, the topic is broader than a controversy over which advertisement elicited the greatest reaction, or which most harshly critiqued Trump’s actions – it’s significant in illustrating how integrated our culture has become in terms of politics, sports, and entertainment. It’s a question of whether citizens are influenced by knowing the political stances of the brands they buy and players they support, or would rather keep events like the Super Bowl separate from their political views. Furthermore how do Americans choose or choose not to continue supporting industries, businesses, and public figures once their politics have been revealed?