Jeep pulls Bruce Springsteen Super Bowl ad after DWI revelation
Jeep on Wednesday said it has pulled its Super Bowl LV ad featuring Bruce Springsteen following reports that the singer-songwriter was arrested last fall for driving while intoxicated and reckless driving.
Springsteen was heavily involved in the creation of the two-minute commercial called "The Middle" that ran in the second half of Sunday's game and was the first to hit airwaves since Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and French rival Groupe PSA merged to create Stellantis NV. The ad, which received criticism and praise, called on Americans to come together following a year of political tensions around the COVID-19 pandemic, presidential election, racial tensions and other issues.
“It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the details of a matter we have only read about and we cannot substantiate," a Jeep representative said in a statement. "But it’s also right that we pause our Big Game commercial until the actual facts can be established. Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever. As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.”
The commercial on Wednesday appeared to have been removed from Jeep's official YouTube channel and other social media pages.
Springsteen was arrested on Nov. 14 in the Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands, New Jersey, National Parks Services spokeswoman Brenda Ling said in a statement. He received three citations, including for driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area. TMZ first reported the arrest.
"Springsteen was cooperative throughout the process," Ling said.
The park is on a narrow, beach-ringed peninsula, with views across a bay to New York City. It is about 15 miles north of Asbury Park, where Springsteen got his start as a musician and bandleader and which was later made famous with his debut album, “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” Springsteen lives in Colts Neck, about 12 miles from the site of the arrest.
The Associated Press left a message seeking comment with Springsteen’s publicist.
Springsteen in the past has been reluctant to appear in commercials, though he recently did so for Jeep and President Joe Biden's campaign. Springsteen last month also performed as part of Biden’s inauguration, singing “Land of Hope and Dreams” in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Olivier Francois, global chief marketing officer for Jeep parent Stellantis, after 10 years of building a relationship with The Boss's manager, Jon Landau, convinced him to appear in the ad after sharing the script featuring a chapel in Lebanon, Kansas, that marks the geographic middle of the continental United States.
The Stellantis marketing team has built a reputation for its Super Bowl spots. Last year's "Groundhog Day" homage to the 1993 comedy featuring actor Bill Murray topped USA Today's Ad Meter based on public sentiment and received an Emmy nomination.
"It adds salt on the wound of the panned nature of the reception of the ad," said Marcus Collins, a marketing lecturer at the University of Michigan's Ross Business School. "Come on, read the room, and do your homework, too."
The result is a cautionary tale for brands about the risk and being judicious in having celebrities endorse their products, even if they are a beloved cultural icon, Collins said: "It’s ironic that an ad for a vehicle features someone who was arrested for drinking while driving. It'd only be more ironic if it had been a beer brand."
But Jeep has a strong brand following and image in America, said Karl Brauer, executive publisher at auto information website CarExpert.com.
"These really generally are short-term things," he said. "It's in the same basic category as a safety recall. A bad, widespread recall with bad consequences can take months, but it usually doesn't impact the long-term health of a brand or company. It's hours or days before it's a non-issue."