Super Bowl ads, for all their running dachshunds and anthropomorphic foodstuffs and movie stars past their prime, often offer surprising insight into the state of the American psyche. 2016’s ads, with their Seth Rogen/Amy Schumer political campaigns and their opioid-induced constipation meds, took a fairly sharp look at the issues dominating the cultural landscape, while 2015’s largely offered a portrait of masculinity under siege by hunger and tiny cars and erectile dysfunction.
So the question for 2017 is, how political will this year’s Super Bowl ads be? With the country still largely divided over the efficacy and legitimacy of President Donald Trump, will brands lean in to the conflict or try their utmost to avoid it? As some early reveals have indicated, it’s tricky territory to navigate, with even the blandest of cultural icons (Tom Brady, avocados) falling into the divide.
The earliest signal comes from Budweiser, whose minute-long ad, “Born the Hard Way,” debuted early. After a weekend of protests regarding President Trump’s ban on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries, the spot is undeniably timely, focusing on a German immigrant who makes it to America. Despite hazardous voyages and furious crowds who shout, “You’re not wanted here,” the young man arrives in St. Louis, where, it turns out, he ends up becoming one half of the duo that created Budweiser.
The message is indisputable: Immigrants have long formed the fabric of American culture, even birthing the most iconically American beer that exists today. “Adolphus Busch made an incredible journey to this country, and that’s really what this is about. It’s about his vision, his dream, everything that he does to achieve that,” Ricardo Marques, the vice president for Budweiser in the U.S., told Adweek. “Even though it happened in the 1850s, it’s a story that is super relevant today.” But he denied that the ad was deliberately drawing parallels with topical events, stating, “There’s really no correlation with anything else that’s happening in the country.”