The New England Patriots may have won the game, but the real Patriots of the 51st Super Bowl were the advertisers.
While conservatives were publicly fretting over what political diatribe Lady Gaga might subject them to at halftime, Coca-Cola, Apple, Budweiser and the like were quietly subverting divisive rhetoric with their commercials steeped in positivity and inclusion. Ads depicted people from all walks of life peacefully mingling, whether at a bar, the gym, or the city streets. Anheuser-Busch made a pointed commercial about the two German immigrants who met by chance and created one of America’s great breweries. Even the NFL aired a commercial stating that no matter their differences, players come together “within the lines” of the football field to reach a common goal.
There was a gentle, optimistic tone to the advertising this year. It was as if to say, We don’t endorse the hateful rhetoric of our recent presidential campaign or the exclusionary policies of our new administration. We can not only get along, but are made richer by our differences if they are directed toward kindness and good will.
The most controversial ad was by 84 Lumber, and it depicts a mother and daughter from south of the border trying to make their way to America. The ending, which depicts a massive wall such as the one President Trump insists he wants to build, was never aired because Fox decided it was much too political.
But most of the commercials were not overtly political. My favorite was the Coca-Cola ad, which features people of different ages, races, religions, ethnicities, and even sexual orientations singing “America the Beautiful” in different languages. The messages in these ads give me hope that Americans can see past the divisions being fostered by our political climate.
As for the dreaded Lady Gaga performance? She let her lyrics, the diversity of her dancers, and her own soaring vocals speak for themselves.