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Political Polarization & Super Bowl Commercials

Everyone has an opinion about the Super Bowl commercials. But that’s from their own viewpoint.  Because our media has become polarized, this show may be the only place to see commercials targeted at a very diverse audience.  Here’s my analysis of how the different groups might perceive some of the Super Bowl commercials.

Targeted at Conservatives

The commercials most obviously targeted at Conservative Americans were the Budweiser and Walmart commercials.  Budweiser used phrases such as “typical American” and “Great American” and showed two scenes of people being helpful- one a young man in an Army fatigue showing up uninvited but obviously welcome, another taking off his shirt to help someone. Walmart’s use of the phrase “united towns” plays with the name of the United States, and makes a plea for unity, but is very place based so it will resonate more with Conservatives. This fits with the profile of most of their shoppers.

There were two commercials for line extensions of brands that might have Conservatives loyal users (Bud Light and Mountain Dew).  Both commercials acknowledge the difficulty that some people have with change, attempting to represent it and the benefit that people can get from trying something new. How effective are commercials at helping people change?  I am not sure they will change anyone’s mind, especially Conservatives who struggle with change, but at least the brand is addressing their major problem.

The Winona at Winona commercial for Square Space uses a rural setting so it might be intended for Conservatives, but the copy (“I like pictures” repeated by both Winona and the police officer) may be perceived as making fun of Conservatives, so I am not sure how that group will react.

Targeted at Liberals (or at least not at Conservatives)

The Audi’s commercial tag line “Sustainable Future” was a clear signal it was for Liberals, which probably represent the bulk of their buyers.  Olay’s “Make Space for Women” plays against a stereotype for women, and Conservatives are defenders of stereotypes, so they won’t be a fan of this commercial.


Both the Michelob Ultra and Pepsi Zero Sugar commercials have a diverse or at least majority non-white cast so that would signal to Conservatives that that wasn’t for them.  I’ve seen data that show that Pepsi has more Liberal users than Conservatives, so that fits for that brand.


Commercials attempting to go broad

Two brands attempted to appeal to both Liberals and Conservatives.  Both Heinz and TurboTax showed a scenes with a variety of people, showing how their brand is used by all people.  TurboTax’s line “all people are tax people” says it most clearly.  As dominant brands in their category, the have a shot at succeeding.


Who’s your brand targeting?  How does that fit with their politics?  If you want help in figuring out whether your brand’s message will resonate with the political leanings of your target audience, I can help.

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Karen Tibbals @KarenTibbals

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