Best Feminist Super Bowl CommercialsJanuary 28, 2016
Update January 24, 2017: This post was updated for Super Bowl 51
Hosted in Houston, Super Bowl 51 will likely be a hard-fought battle between the two best teams in football. But while the athleticism and competition of the game are often enough of a draw for viewers, many also tune in for entertainment provided by the year’s most witty, captivating, and even poignant, commercials.
Women are the fastest-growing demographic among the National Football League’s more than 150 million fans. Forty-seven percent of the Super Bowl’s audience is women, yet fans still experience bias because of their gender. With women comprising two-thirds of primary and cobreadwinners in U.S. households and nearly 45 percent of the football fan base, brands advertising in the Super Bowl have taken notice.
Because of women’s significant purchasing power — and because ads cost upwards of $5 million for this year’s Super Bowl — more brands are rejecting sexist and hypersexualized portrayals of women and opting for messages specifically geared toward women. Last year’s event proved that some advertisers are catching on, while others continue to rely on sexist narratives.
And this year, Lady Gaga, who speaks out on women’s issues, will headline the halftime show — marking only the fifth time the blockbuster event has featured a female headliner. Here’s one new commercial we already love, plus some of our favorite and most empowering ads from past Super Bowls.
Here at AAUW, we’re all about closing the gender pay gap. So we were elated to see Audi’s pre-released commercial for Super Bowl LI. The commercial, titled “Daughter,” challenges the various gender stereotypes that hold girls and young women back, including how women are consistently “valued less” than their male peers. Fittingly, Audi recently signed the White House Equal Pay Pledge. With this new spot, they’re upping the ante — and as their campaign hashtag says — they’re helping to #DriveProgress for gender equity.
In Pantene’s 2016 campaign, Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, and New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson give their daughters new hairstyles — and empowering messages. In addition to the original 30-second broadcast spot, there’s also a series of online ads featuring each father demonstrating his own “dad-do” on his daughter.
Although feminine hygiene ads may have previously seemed out of place during football’s biggest game, the Always brand’s entry into the market in 2015 proved successful. Lauded as one of the best commercials of Super Bowl 49, the company’s “Like a Girl” ad defied stereotypes about what it means to run, throw, or fight like a girl. Instead of being an insult, this inspiring ad turned #Likeagirl into the ultimate compliment.
In 2014, Goldieblox won software company Inuit’s “Small Business, Big Game” contest and became the first small business to air an ad during the Super Bowl. Goldieblox, founded by Stanford-trained engineer Debbie Sterling, used its 30 seconds in the spotlight to showcase the company’s construction toys that encourage girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The commercial not only made history but also aimed to disrupt the pink aisle and inspire a future generation of female engineers.
Apple’s allusion to the George Orwell novel 1984 is remembered as one of the greatest Super Bowls commercials of all time. In the ad a woman plays a pivotal role in announcing Apple’s newest personal computer. As dystopian figures line up for Big Brother, the woman runs past them with a large hammer and shatters the screen projecting Big Brother’s face. Representing Apple breaking the mold, the ad also encouraged a generation to go into technology fields, which offer women some of the highest-paying job opportunities.
In another ad by Dove the brand reminds us that feminism isn’t just for women. In “#RealStrength,” Dove focuses on fathers to illustrate the spectrum of feelings men experience. As the ad reveals, showing emotion and caring are not exclusively female traits. With images of fathers tending to their crying infants, newly married daughters, and pool-jumping sons, Dove reminds men that “Care Makes a Man Stronger” — an important message to remember amid the fight to promote equality for both genders.
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