Winter is here football fans. The long wait until next season is underway, and all II hope it begins better than the 2018 season finished. For anyone unfortunate enough to watch the Super Bowl and its commercials, you were witness to rather lackluster performances both on and off the field. Todd Gurley was harder to find than an actually funny commercial.
As a card-carrying member of the advertising industry, I find myself ‘always on’ during the Super Bowl (note the advertising lingo); both judging the ads and dissecting the football game. The best ad of the day was for the state of California. If a Super Bowl ad cost $5M for a :30 of airtime, how much does it cost for a tattoo on Adam Levine’s stomach during the Halftime Show?
It already feels like an eternity since the Texans played a football game. I miss their mediocrity dearly. We can only dream of the day where the Texans make the Super Bowl and are center-stage for the country’s biggest cultural and commercial event. For now, we can only vaguely associate the Texans with Super Bowl commercials. One day we might actually talk about them playing in the game itself. But for now, and for this article, I've combined two of my favorite topics: advertising and the Houston Texans by comparing the recent Super Bowl ads to Texans players.
Justin Reid: Game of Thrones and Bud Light
Like rookie safety Justin Reid, this was an unexpected surprise that should turn out to be beneficial for both parties. Reid was the first pick for the Texans in the 2018 draft after the team traded away its first two draft picks. Reid was slated to be a contributor in the secondary and a solid special teams player from the moment he stepped foot at NRG Stadium. What the Texans didn't expect (but were rather pleased to see) was Reid developing into a starting safety with reliable coverage skills along with a dose of “wow factor” sprinkled in.
This ad began similarly to many other of the Bud Light “Dilly Dilly” commercials; set in a medieval time with a comical undertone. This Bud Light ad, like Justin Reid, did not seem to be any different than what was to be expected out of them. Everything changed when the Bud Light Knight, a fixure in the ad campaign’s dialogue, was knocked off his horse by what turned out to be the Mountain from Game of Thrones. If you are like me; an avid fan of the Game of Thrones series, this cameo should have lifted you out of your seat in excitement compared to the blasé football game we were watching. Both Reid and this commercial gave glimpses into the promising future: Game of Thrones returns in less than 70 days and Reid’s career should be equally exciting to watch over the next several years.
Julie’n Davenport: Yellow Tail Wine - Tastes Like Happy
A fixture in the Super Bowl ads lineup, Yellow Tail often misses the mark when it comes to good advertising on the world’s biggest stage. This ad fortunately pales in comparison to the 2017 ad featuring a supermodel and a rather outlandish question. In this year’s rendition, the wine company associated their product with memorable experiences and touching moments attempting to connect their brand with aspirational events in people’s lives. Just because something looks or feels like it should, doesn't mean it is actually that good. Take offensive tackle Julie’n Davenport for instance: he's a 6’7”, 325 pound offensive tackle with 36 1⁄2 in arms. A prototypical offensive lineman in the NFL. If he played as good as he looked, then QB Deshaun Watson would not have been the most sacked QB in the NFL.
Like a fine wine, Davenport can still develop into a fine offensive tackle. He is entering into his third year in the NFL and has shown signs of improvement from his rookie season. All eyes are on the front office during this offseason to improve the offensive line. If they bring someone in who can be a plug-and-play at the left tackle position, then Davenport may be shelved next season.
Aaron Colvin: Amazon - Not Everything Makes the Cut
Sometimes the best of intentions do not always work out. For the Texans, cornerback Aaron Colvin was the most disappointing acquisition the team made this past offseason. Like a toothbrush equipped with Amazon’s Alexa, he just didn’t quite work right. It was a fine idea; bringing in a divisional opponent’s starting corner to bolster our own defense. However, the Texans could not rely on Colvin to make plays in coverage. Colvin turned into a non-factor by the season’s end and was inactive for the playoff game against the Colts.
Like any product or service you buy, you need to know what you are getting. An Alexa hot tub sounds like a great concept until it shoots you out of the tub (see the commercial). Similarly, adding a starting cornerback via free agency sounds like a great idea until he forgets how to cover.
Kareem Jackson: Pepsi - More than OK
Cardi B is taking over the whole world and you best watch out. Okurrrrr?
This Pepsi ad is spot-on in its position as a second-option to Coke, and it looks as though Pepsi have done the research to tap into a cultural touchpoint. I don't drink Coke or Pepsi, I am more of a Sprite (who surprisingly didn't have an ad) guy. Whenever I order a Sprite and the waiter/ess asks “is 7up OK?” I usually change my order to just water. Brand loyal to Sprite till the day I die. Pepsi knows that is the same for their products and went all-in for this ad to change people’s mind.
One player who changed people’s mind about themselves being “just OK” is defensive back Kareem Jackson. Jackson’s ninth season with the Texas was definitely his most productive and effective season. Moved from outside corner to safety, Jackson excelled in his new roll that better fit his hard-nose skill set. Texans were becoming fatigued with Jackson and his lack of speed. Romeo Crennel placed Jackson in a pseudo pass coverage and run support defensive back position, and Jackson took to it like a fish to water.
Both Jackson and Pepsi have endured some hard times. Pepsi fell hard on their advertising faces with their Kendall Jenner ad in 2017 by attempting to solve multiple social issues with a Pepsi. Jackson struggled early in his career to keep pace with speedy receivers in space. The Texans have stuck by Jackson for his entire career. As the NFL season concludes and free agency begins on March 13, the Texans will need to decide if they want to keep Jackson around for a couple more seasons. Conversely, soft drink consumers will need to decide if Pepsi is “More than OK” to drink.
J.J. Watt: Toyota - Toni and the RAV4
This was a great ad. From its onset, who does this story sound like? A football player with the dream of being in the NFL who was told they were “too small... too slow... too weak...never get to the next level”? If you are thinking J.J. Watt, then we are on the same brainwave. The only difference between Toni and Watt’s story is that her’s has yet to come true. Toni Harris will be potentially the first ever female college football player to receive a scholarship. She will be playing for Bethany College in the NAIA division.
Watt had to walk on at Wisconsin to earn a spot on their football roster. There were no guarantees that he would develop into the Hall-of-Fame caliber player that he is today. Watt added another spectacular season to his belt after finishing the last two seasons on injured reserve with major injuries. Both of Watt and Harris’ stories are inspiring and I hope we continue to hear their names associated with the sport for a long time.
Deshaun Watson: Michelob ULTRA Pure Gold - The Pure Experience
Alright, after witnessing this semi-mesmerizing, semi-eerie ad I instantly had to figure out what in the world is going on. The commercial is inspired by a physical phenomena called “Autonomous sensory meridian response”, better known as ASMR that has found traction on Youtube. Before we jump into the Watson-ASMR metaphor, rewatch the commercial, see if you feel a light tingling down your neck and back, and notice if you are slightly happier. If you do notice all of this, then you are either watching the video correctly, or watching Deshaun Watson make a spectacular play.
This ASMR trend may not be for me, but I definitely have an out of body experience when watching Watson dart around in the pocket to make a miraculous play down the field. Both ASMR and Watson are fascinating in their own right; one uses sound to create a physical stimulation, and the other uses his one-of-a-kind talents on the football field to create awe-inspiring plays. When most brands are staying within the hashes when it comes to edgy-advertising and social trends, Michelob ULTRA is frolicking around in the year 2045 taking advantage of your sensory system with their commercials.
What were your favorite ads during the Super Bowl? Can you think of some comparisons of advertisements to Texans players? Comment below and share!