Super Bowl Sunday Is Flyover Affair -- Down To the Ads

This year, the Big Game is about Flyover Country more than ever. Two of our teams are battling it out. They’re contesting on one of our fields. And their strivings on the gridiron will be accompanied by an ample chorus of TV and digital advertisements by companies that hail from the heartland, ranging from automakers to insurers to food processors to mortgage brokers.

There’s no telling the outcome of Super Bowl LV in a potentially great, quarterback-led match-up in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes’s Kansas City Chiefs, the reigning champions. But you can be certain that advertisers based in the middle of America will be providing plenty of great commercial moments to the rest of the country and the world.

These are likely be highlighted by the Super Bowl advertisement about which the least is known at this writing: a Jeep commercial rumored to feature Bruce Springsteen. If indeed “The Boss” is the protagonist of one of the most-anticipated TV spots ever, it’ll rank as a major coup for the Michigan-based automaker that used to be known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and now is called Stellantis, after its merger with France’s PSA.

Olivier Francois, the chief marketing officer of Stellantis, is known to have been pursuing the endorsement-shy Springsteen for many years. Notching such a mega-celebrity for an ad would be a fitting bookend for Francois ten years after the company’s stirring spot featuring Eminem and the Detroit cityscape, “Born of Fire,” created a two-minute-long campfire moment in America and helped pave the way for the automaker’s return to prosperity.

Francois proved last year, by getting Bill Murray to star in a Jeep ad based on a reprise of Groundhog Day, that he can recruit even the most reluctant figures in Hollywood. That followed a decade of memorable ads for Fiat Chrysler brands that also starred the likes of Clint Eastwood and Bob Dylan. Seeing Springsteen shill for Jeep would take such accomplishments to a whole new level.

On the other end of the Super Bowl familiarity spectrum is another proud company from Flyover Country, Scott’s Miracle-Gro. The world’s leading marketer of branded consumer lawn and garden products is based in Marysville, Ohio, and its second-quarter Big Game commercial will be Scott’s first in the Super Bowl. It features numerous high-profile celebrities including Martha Stewart, John Travolta and Kyle Busch.

“We got about 20 million new customers in Covid time last year, and the goal is to keep them and grow the market,” Scott’s Miracle-Gro CEO James Hagedorn told CNBC. “We think we can do that, and the Super Bowl is part of the reach we want – to reach out to people who were in and convince them to stay in.”

Not to be outdone is Detroit’s Rocket Mortgage, which this year will be advertising in two spots during the Super Bowl instead of its usual one commercial. And interestingly, another growing player in the southeastern Michigan fin-tech cluster becoming known as “Mortgage City,” United Wholesale Mortgage, has taken out a 30-second ad produced in house that will be shown in the nation’s top 20 “Designated Marketing Areas,” making it nearly a national buy.

The United Wholesale ad is a humorous take on dating apps applied to mortgage brokers and follows a similar regional ad in last year’s Super Bowl that took a swipe at Rocket Mortgage in a growing competition between the major cross-town rivals in the burgeoning mortgage game.

Other companies hailing from Flyover Country will make their pitches and take their stands on Sunday. State Farm Insurance, based in Chicago, will star Mahomes, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and other celebrities in its first in-game Super Bowl commercial.

Pringles, a brand owned by Kellogg’s of Battle Creek, Michigan, is back with a 30-second ad in which everyone at Mission Control and in a rescue boat is too distracted by flavor-stacking Pringles to notice that astronauts have returned to earth and are bobbing in their capsule in the middle of the ocean.

While not as prevalent in this Super Bowl as in many past games, other automakers round out Sunday’s roster. Toyota, a Big Game regular whose U.S. operations are based near Dallas, underscores its backing of “mobility for all” with a feel-good spot featuring a Paralympic swimmer.

General Motors turns to Will Ferrell to drive a commercial underscoring the automaker’s commitment to electrified vehicles by depicting the comic madman as recruiting celebrity friends to “beat Norway,” where EVs already are common. Another GM ad touts Cadillac as an all-electric brand.

And by this time, no Super Bowl advertising panorama would be complete without an appearance by WeatherTech, the manufacturer based in Bolingbrook, Illinois, that turned the automotive-aftermarket world upside-down many years ago with its customized floor mats and has diversified into many other adjacent products since then.

Founder and CEO David MacNeil rocked the Big Game with WeatherTech’s first spot, promoting made-in-America manufacturing, in 2014, and WeatherTech has been a presence in every Super Bowl since. Last year, as the company rolled out its new pet-safe dog bowls, MacNeil paid for a Big Game ad that featured his own ailing dog, Scout, and efforts by the University of Wisconsin veterinary school to save Scout’s life. MacNeil’s dog enjoyed a physical renewal but died last year.

Collectively, these advertisements and their sponsors will shine a fantastic lens on the economic diversity and success of the enterprises that rely on us in Flyover Country to make them work.

On the field or on the screen, what would the Super Bowl be without us?