Tom Schad, USA TODAY
Published 11:40 a.m. ET Jan. 28, 2020 | Updated 5:57 p.m. ET Jan. 28, 2020
The NFL made a splash last year with its star-studded Super Bowl commercial, which turned a black-tie event into a rollicking pickup game.
And this year, the league will be back with another huge spot just before kickoff at Super Bowl LIV — an ad that NFL executive vice president and chief marketing officer Tim Ellis described repeatedly as a “juggernaut.”
The NFL’s primary Super Bowl commercial this year will draw from the same playbook as last year’s ad, which finished first in USA TODAY’s Ad Meter, a ranking of Super Bowl ads by consumer rating. Like that ad, which was titled “The 100-Year Game,” this year’s spot will feature a long line of celebrities and a rollercoaster journey through the lens of football.
“Crazy things happen, things break, chaos ensues,” Ellis told USA TODAY Sports in a phone interview. “This year, even a few tears are shed.”
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Ellis said the league was thrilled with the reception that last year’s ad received, including its first Ad Meter title. But he also said that success proved to be “a double-edged sword” as the league and its ad agency, 72andSunny, sought to build on its stellar showing.
According to Ellis, the NFL actually approved one idea late last summer that was “very close” in concept to its 2019 commercial — “It almost felt like a sequel,” he said — before abruptly reversing course about a week or two later.
“Which is a difficult thing to do, right? ” Ellis continued. “When you’re dealing with something that’s highly successful, it’s always a challenge to basically not be too conservative and try to repeat what you’ve done. … We took the more risky approach, and it’s paid off.”
The NFL does not plan to release the full ad before it airs Sunday, but it did release a trailer Tuesday. The spot follows Maxwell “Bunchie” Young, 13, on a journey across the United States, culminating in Miami for the Super Bowl.
Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ray Lewis, Brett Favre, Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, skateboarder Nyjah Huston and women’s soccer player Carli Lloyd are among the stars who will make an appearance in the spot. The commercial will also feature 32 youth football players, who range in age from 9 to 13, representing the league’s 32 teams.
This is the NFL’s 2019 Super Bowl ad:
Ad Meter 2019: The NFL presents a star-studded ad for Super Bowl liii.
Ellis said this year’s ad is “an even bigger puzzle” than the one that aired last year. It required nine days of shooting across six different locations, he said, as opposed to three days across three locations last year.
“It has a lot of the elements of that big ad that we did last year, but it’s fresh, it’s different, it’s inspiring in a very different way,” Ellis said. “And it really passes the torch to the next generation of players and fans.”
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The “juggernaut” ad is one of four commercials that the league will air during the Super Bowl, according to Ellis. Two of the others have already aired during the postseason and will touch on the league’s player health and “Inspire Change” initiatives.
The “Inspire Change” ad, in which former NFL player and Players Coalition co-founder Anquan Boldin talks about his cousin being shot and killed by a plain-clothes police officer, has drawn significant attention since it first aired during the AFC championship game earlier this month. The commercial comes a little more than three years after Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem as a means of protesting police-involved shootings such as the one depicted in the ad.
Ellis said rapper Jay-Z, who has contributed to the league’s “Inspire Change” initiative, did not have a role in the creation of the ad.
“Jay and our colleagues over at Roc Nation, we had a lot of discussion around the importance of the initiative and the overall approach,” Ellis said. “They weren’t involved in the actual execution, but certainly they were excited about the quality work that we were doing, the focus on the work, and the fact that we’re really bringing people together to shine a light on all the great work that NFL players and teams are doing to bring about positive social change in our communities.”
Contact Tom Schad at email@example.com or on Twitter @Tom_Schad.
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