Superbowl commercial of 2014: The Tim Tebow T-Mobile advertisement
For a Superbowl advertisement to be judged ‘the best’ it must not only be much-shared and entertaining to watch: it must also be effective in selling its product to the specific, targeted audience it is designed to reach. Superbowl advertisements are extremely expensive and must be worth the investment made by the purchasers. Using football player Tim Tebow in an advertisement was an excellent way to target the core audience of Superbowl fans while still appealing to the broader audience of Superbowl watchers who might have had only a cursory knowledge of football.
Although Tebow’s skills as a football player are somewhat controversial, he garnered a great deal of publicity during his career in the NHL because of his conspicuous praying and evangelical politics. After being passed around from team to team, he is currently ‘independent’ as a player. The mobile phone company T-Mobile capitalized upon this, however, ending the advertisement with the “contracts are limited” and “contracts hold you back” slogan to draw a link between Tebow and the phone company. The advertisements featuring the player thus functioned as a kind of funny in-joke between viewers, the company, and Tebow himself. Tebow loyalists loved seeing their hero make fun of himself while those who were dismissive of his skills could also chuckle. The advertisement was designed to use sports knowledge, but the sports knowledge was not so obscure that non-fans could not laugh.
Of course there were many other advertisements which tugged at the heartstrings of viewers such as the famous ‘Clydesdale and puppy’ advertisement, which portrayed the relationship between one of the famous Budweiser horses and a dog. However, although the ad may have been much-shared on social media, it is questionable whether its cuteness was really successful in terms of selling the Budweiser product. Those who loved the advertisement were likely to be older women and children who were not heavy alcohol consumers. In contrast, the Tebow ad was designed to appeal to younger consumers with a hip attitude — people who are likely to be hungry for the best cellphone deal they could possibly find. Although the conceit of the advertisement was clever, its message was also clear — that not having to have a cellphone contract is liberating.
In the advertisement, Tebow is shown doing all the things he can do without an NFL contract: being a doctor, a comedian, a chess master, a bronco rider, etcetera. The images are funny and absurd as but also create a memorable impression in the mind of the viewers that T-Mobile is a company with both a practical plan and an ethos that suits their sensibilities. The advertisement concludes with Tebow making world peace at the UN and being an astronaut. The advertisement was unexpected and slightly surreal, which further contributed to it being so memorable.
Other Superbowl advertisements capitalized upon the ‘cute’ factor, such as a Cheerios advertisement depicting a little girl negotiating for a puppy from her mother and father in exchange for tolerating a new baby brother and a little boy creating a fake time machine to hoodwink an adult into giving him his bag of Doritos. But while Tebow’s advertisement was not quite as adorable as these examples, it offered the best example of an advertisement that used both fact as well as emotion to generate interest about the product. It managed to create a positive image for T-Mobile while still communicating relevant information to the viewer about not needing a contract and being able to switch from the user’s current plan with another company to a no-contract plan with T-Mobile.
“Tim Tebow shows his wild side in a Superbowl ad.” ABC News. 31 Jan 2014. 30 Apr 2014.
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