SBD/Issue 100/Sponsorships, Advertising & Marketing

Super Bowl Ads: Focus On The Family Buys Pregame Ad Inventory

Focus on the Family is expected to announce Friday that it has bought time during CBS' Super Bowl pregame show to air a "second ad four times," according to Bruce Horovitz of USA TODAY. The Christian group's new spot, like its previously-announced in-game ad, features former Univ. of Florida QB Tim Tebow and his mother Pam. The new commercial was "filmed in Orlando last month at the same time as the group's controversial -- though yet unseen -- in-game ad." While Focus on the Family will not reveal details of the ads, CEO Jim Daly said that the original in-game ad "was rejected by CBS." In that spot, Pam Tebow addresses giving birth to Tim and says, "Both of our lives were at risk." But Daly said, "They felt that was too much. So we dropped the line. We didn't fight them." Horovitz notes the word "abortion" is never used in the Focus on the Family ads. Daly noted that he "coaxed CBS to ease the game's un-written ban on advocacy ads," but said that viewers should not "look for Focus on the Family again next year." Daly: "It would lose its punch" (USA TODAY, 2/5).

RIGHT TO AIR: An L.A. TIMES editorial states CBS is "to be congratulated for standing up to the pressure" from several organizations urging the network to reject the Focus on the Family spot. Regardless of where one stands on the issue of abortion, the "campaign against the ad is a misguided attempt at censorship." CBS execs said that they have "reconsidered their policy and now welcome advocacy ads during the coveted Super Bowl broadcast." So as "long as the network applies this policy fairly to groups across the political spectrum, it's a sensible move," because there is nothing in FCC rules "to bar such commercials" (L.A. TIMES, 2/5). USA TODAY's Michael Hiestand notes abortion is "not the kind of thing viewers are used to getting" during the Super Bowl, and it "might be a teensy bit jarring amid all the ads with, say, ballplaying horses or dancing babies." However, after "relentless ads on TV football for erectile dysfunction treatments we've already passed the point where we can assume Super Bowl ads will be G-rated." At least Focus on the Family's ad "will add something refreshing to the Super Bowl mix" (USA TODAY, 2/5). On Long Island, Neil Best wrote, "Tim Tebow has a right to appear in a Super Bowl commercial with a pro-life/anti-abortion message and CBS has a right to air it and women's groups have a right to raise concerns about it" (NEWSDAY, 2/4).

TREAD CAREFULLY: Northwestern Univ.’s Kellogg School of Management marketing professor Tim Calkins believes that the Focus on the Family spot's "presence as a cultural lightning rod presents a potential problem for Super Bowl Sunday's advertising atmosphere if the Tebow ad were to become a trend." Calkins: "A key to the Super Bowl is that a lot of people tune in to watch the ads, which tend to be very entertaining. So if you end up with a lot of issue ads, you diminish the appeal" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 2/5). USA TODAY's Michael McCarthy writes there is a "time and a place for advocacy ads," and "our country's most-watched sporting event is not it." If networks are "interested in airing statements from the political right and left, why not do it on the Sunday morning talk shows?" McCarthy: "Can't they leave sports fans alone for a few hours?" (USA TODAY, 2/5).

CBS Not Offering Much Of An Explanation
For Rejecting ManCrunch Super Bowl Spot
WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM? In DC, Kevin Huffman notes CBS "didn't bother to offer a real explanation" for rejecting a Super Bowl spot from gay dating site, only saying the creative is "not within the network's broadcast standards for Super Bowl Sunday." But Huffman notes CBS when it last aired the Super Bowl in '07 "ran a Snickers commercial featuring an inadvertent heterosexual man-on-man kiss." The ManCrunch ad is a "little juvenile, but certainly no more so than your average Super Bowl commercial fare." Huffman: "So what is so offensive about the ManCrunch ad? I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's the gay part" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/5). The GLOBE & MAIL's Bruce Dowbiggin writes, "CBS doesn't want to annoy the fatted calf of the NFL, where gay still means happy and John 3:16 is not a quarterback's passer rating" (, 2/5).

SHINE A LITTLE LIGHT: In N.Y., Stuart Elliott notes there are "several reasons for the additional interest in the spots that CBS will broadcast" on Sunday, the biggest of which is the inclusion of the Focus on the Family commercial. Several surveys have shown that the Tebow ad is the "most-discussed of all potential Super Bowl commercials in online places like blogs and message boards." Another reason for the "growing curiosity about Super Bowl XLIV commercials is that the presence of the Focus on the Family spot is shining a brighter light on the contents of all the ads." CBS this week forced Electronic Arts to change its tagline used in a Super Bowl ad, while the network rejected ads from ManCrunch,, and text-messaging service KGB. But despite interest in "commercials that will not appear, advertisers say they are confident the spots they intend to run will be noticed" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/5).

POLITICAL STATEMENT: Former NFLer Jay Riemersma, one of "four Republican congressional candidates running in Michigan's solidly conservative 2nd District, will host a rally Sunday in support" of Focus on the Family's spot. Riemersma's event is scheduled for 5:00-6:00pm ET, leading up to the kickoff of the Super Bowl (AP, 2/4).

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