Superbowl Ads Feature Women Role Models

Superbowl advertising on occasion has stereotyped women, but three ads this year depicted role models–an NFL coach, two soccer stars and an astronaut. All three ads also featured powerful hashtags and mottoes.

Be The One: Katie Sowers

The Microsoft Surface advertisement featured Katie Sowers, offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, narrating her ambition to play football. She reads a childhood diary entry: “I hope someday to be on a real football team.” Later in the ad she makes cogent points about NFL players and stereotypes:

These guys have been learning from women their whole lives—moms, grandmas, teachers. We have all these assumptions about what women do in life, what men do. I’m glad my daughter is old enough to see this and how significant it is. I’m not trying to be the best female coach. I’m trying to be the best coach.

The Secret Kicker | Super Bowl Ad #KickInequality

World Cup champions Carli Lloyd and Crystal Dunn are featured as field goal kicker and holder in this deodorant ad. It’s a close game, with their visiting team losing 24-23 with three seconds on the clock. The camera pans to the stands, and the tension on fans’ faces is apparent. The kick is good, and the visiting team wins game. Audience in the stands cheers without realizing the identity of the “secret kicker.” The players take off their helmets. There is a long pause until recognition kicks in, and the crowd cheers again, this time for women.


Journalist Katie Couric plays herself as an anchor who asks, “Is there enough space in space for women?” Then we meet three women astronauts an heading toward an Olay spacecraft. Astronaut Nicole Scott plays herself alongside actress Busy Phillips and YouTube personality Lilly Singh. When the craft lifts off and reaches outer space, Phillips quips, “We have the opposite of a problem”–a reference to James A. Lovell’s report to NASA: “Houston, we have a problem.” Singh adds, “There’s so much space up here.” Scott retorts, “I could have told you that.” Another actor, Taraji P. Henson, serves as mission control flight chief in front of a sign that says, “Girls who code,” a reference to a non-profit organization supporting girls in computer science: “When we make space for women, we make space for everyone.” The video cuts back to Phillips and Singh and a sign that reads: “Tweet @Olayskin #MakeSpaceForWomen” and “$1 for Girls to Code.” Then Phillips presses an Olay button, thinking she is adding a donation. But it’s the eject button, hurling her and Singh into space.

The dialogue (i.e. “There’s so much space up here”) and the last scene might have ended better, as it undercuts the proactive message; but the campaign’s support of Girls Who Code more than makes up for the cliché attempts at humor.

While the advertisements were largely devoid of stereotypes, the half-time show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez sparked debate on whether the performance was empowering or sexist. You could make both arguments, as USA Today noted in an article titled: “Empowering or Objectifying?” In one sequence, choreography featured upside-down disembodied legs of dancers, classic objectification.


More important, no other advertisement during the game featured blatant stereotypes, branding a company for years to come. Nevertheless, several fell short, according to the Washington Post, which published “The Five Worst Superbowl Commercials.”



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