AUTOS

Super Bowl ads go electric as automakers push EV future

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Automakers are going electric with their Super Bowl ads this year. 

General Motors Co., BMW AG, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. and Kia Corp. are all pushing electric vehicles in their ads for this Sunday's game. The EV marketing isn't surprising given the colossal industry shift to battery-powered products, but it signals how automakers know they need to take advantage of a mass audience in their efforts to persuade consumers to think electric for their vehicle. 

"We're working hard ... to create an all-electric, zero-emissions future for everyone. And one really important part of that is getting people excited about electric vehicles," GM Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl said on a media call this week. 

"We wanted to use the Super Bowl platform to continue to raise awareness of the important role that EVs can play in fighting climate change."

Beyond the auto industry, ads across the board this year are expected to be less about creating solidarity in the fight against the pandemic — like they were last year — and more about moving on to what's next. 

"This year ... it's like escapism," said Marcus Collins, lecturer of marketing at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. This is the turning of the page, the next chapter of the pandemic and all the social unrest that has existed. People at this point are kind of just burying their heads in the sand to try to get past it all."

Super Bowl LVI kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Sunday with the Los Angeles Rams battling the Cincinnati Bengals in SoFi Stadium, which happens to be the Rams' home field. NBC is broadcasting the game.

NBCUniversal reportedly has sold out of ad space, with many spots going for as much as $7 million for a 30-second ad.

One of those ads will be from Swedish EV startup Polestar. The company's first-ever Super Bowl ad will be a 30-second spot airing in the first quarter. Polestar released a 15-second teaser Thursday. The ad centers around the brand’s  "no compromises" mentality and features the Polestar 2 electric performance car. 

What to expect from the Detroit Three

GM is back again this year promoting its "Everybody In" campaign with an ad that features Mike Myers' character Dr. Evil (EV-il) from the Austin Powers films. In the ad, Dr. Evil is trying to stop climate change, which has taken his spot as the No. 1 threat to the world. 

The commercial opens with Dr. Evil and his comrades — No. 2 played by Rob Lowe; Scott Evil, Dr. Evil's son played by Seth Green, and Frau Farbissina played by Mindy Sterling — gathered in the GM Renaissance Center headquarters where they've taken over. 

Dr. Evil is encouraged to help "save the world first" before taking it over by reducing tailpipe emissions with GM's all-electric lineup of vehicles powered by Ultium, GM's new EV platform. The ad showcases some of GM's current and coming products, including the GMC Hummer EV, electric Chevrolet Silverado and Cadillac Lyriq. 

The 60-second ad will appear in the third quarter of the game. 

Last year, GM's "No way, Norway" spot featuring comedian Will Ferrell also promoted the "Everybody In" campaign. In it, Ferrell goes on a mission to get back at Norway for selling more EVs. Even Norway's prime minister at the time, Erna Solberg, responded to the ad. 

In 2021, EV consideration was 5% and is now at 39%, according to internal GM studies, but the automaker still feels "the need to continue working on that idea of normalizing EVs and help Americans across the country actually see themselves in one," Wahl said. 

Ford Motor Co. will not have an ad in this year's game. Details of Stellantis NV's ad plans had not been revealed as of Thursday morning.

Nissan, BMW, Toyota and Kia plans

Nissan is back for this year's Super Bowl with its first ad since 2015. 

The 60-second commercial titled "Thrill Driver" features "Schitt's Creek" star Eugene Levy experiencing the thrill of driving the new Nissan Z.

Suit-wearing Levy is encouraged by Brie Larson, star of "Captain Marvel," to take the bold yellow sports car for a spin. Levy starts out driving modestly, but as he experiences the Z's power, he lets the thrill of the ride take over. He passes fellow "Schitt's Creek" star Catherine O'Hara, who's driving an all-electric 2023 Nissan Ariya and surprised to see Levy behind the wheel of the Z. 

Other Marvel movie stars Danai Gurira and Dave Bautista see Levy enjoying the ride and follow him. Levy then suddenly transitions into an action movie star with long hair, a leather jacket and tattoos who flies through the sky in the Z to save Bautista in a flaming action scene. 

Nissan felt it was the right time to get back into the Super Bowl this year after more than a year of "heavily investing" in the brand, Chief Marketing Officer Allyson Witherspoon said.

"We've been running a full-year brand campaign that tells different chapters of the Nissan story, and it's been gaining a lot of internal and external momentum," she said. "The second piece of it is that we've been in the middle of a massive product transformation."

Nissan is launching both the Z and the Ariya electric crossover this year. 

With the brand push and the new products, Nissan thought "it was time for us to go back and advertise in the Super Bowl," Witherspoon said.

The ad will air in the fourth quarter. 

Kia is also using the Super Bowl stage to promote EVs, specifically the all-new Kia EV6, the brand's first battery-electric vehicle and the first of 11 all-new electrified models Kia will debut globally by 2026.

The 60-second spot, titled “Robo Dog,” tells the story of a robotic puppy on sale at an electronics store that desires human affection. He spots a man in an EV6 and chases him around town. When Robo Dog finally has a chance to catch the man, he leaps into the air, but after all that running, his battery is drained and he dies. But then the man plugs Robo Dog into the EV6 onboard charger and Robo Dog comes back to life. The ad closes with Robo Dog riding shotgun in the EV6. 

Kia's ad will run in the third quarter. 

“The EV6 marks the beginning of Kia as a sustainable mobility solutions provider and is the next step in our shift to electrification,” said Russell Wager, vice president of marketing for Kia America, in a statement. “To introduce over 100 million viewers to the Kia EV6, we wanted to juxtapose the future with the emotions we all know and understand today — the love that can be shared between a human and an animal.”

BMW is back with its first ad since 2015 to promote the BMW iX sports activity electric vehicle. The ad features Arnold Schwarzenegger as Zeus and and Salma Hayek Pinault as Hera. The Greek gods decide to retire from Mt. Olympus to Palm Springs, California. But Zeus finds himself frustrated on earth with the confusing electronics and annoying neighbors constantly asking him to use his powers to recharge their earthly items. 

Hera surprises Zeus with the electric BMW iX. The ad, which airs in the first quarter of the game, closes with Zeus and Hera dancing and singing Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” while driving down the road in their new ride. 

“All-electric mobility is at the very heart of the BMW brand,” said Jens Thiemer, BMW senior vice president, customer and brand, in a statement. “There is no better place to make this statement than in front of one of the largest television audiences in the world, where viewers tune in as much for the commercials as they do for the game. With Arnold and Salma, we are able to show the world the new BMW iX in a memorable and impactful way.” 

Toyota Motor Corp. will have two ads in this year's game. 

The first 60-second ad, titled "Brothers," stars real-life brothers Brian McKeever (global team Toyota athlete and Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian) and Robin McKeever (Olympian, cross-country skiing/Paralympic guide and coach, Para Nordic Skiing).

The ad follows the brothers on a journey cross-country skiing together and then dealing with Brian's loss of central vision from Stargardt macular degeneration. The brothers continue to train together with Robin acting as Brian's guide. At the ad's end, it notes the brothers have gone to win 10 Paralympic medals.

“Brothers” will air in the first commercial break of the game.

Toyota will also have a second commercial promoting the new 2022 Toyota Tundra pickup with celebrities Tommy Lee Jones, Leslie Jones and Rashida Jones all making appearances. The full ad will air for the first time during the Toyota halftime report.

Michigan companies back again

Battle Creek-based Kellogg Co. is back again this year with another Pringles ad, marking its fifth consecutive year as an advertiser.

The 30-second spot called "Pringles Stuck In" answers the question: "Is grabbing the last Pringles crisp worth getting your hand stuck in the can ... forever?" The answer, as the ad conveys, is yes. The ad follows a young man who gets his hand stuck in a Pringles can but goes on to live a long life with the can attached.

The ad will air at the end of the third quarter.

Rocket Mortgage LLC will be back with ad featuring Anna Kendrick and Barbie. The full ad will not be released until Super Bowl Sunday. This will be Rocket's fifth Super Bowl commercial. 

The commercial will feature some unnamed guest stars and will center around "finding and financing their American dream and getting their own home," said Casey Hurbis, Rocket's chief marketing officer. The ad will promote both Rocket Mortgage and Rocket Homes, sister companies that are part of Rocket Companies. 

The 60-second ad will appear in the second quarter. 

khall@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bykaleahall