Weekly Brief: EV Salesmen Match Super Bowl Players’ Efforts Off Field

Dr Evil, the Greek God Zeus, an illiterate caveman and a robotic dog banded together to hail the EV revolution Sunday night at the Super Bowl.

Automakers have a long history of advertising their best sellers at America’s biggest sporting event, where every year more than 100 million viewers tune in to watch a game of football and its famous lineup of commercials. This year a 30-second spot sold for between $6.5M and $7M a pop. The pressure to deliver is thus immense and what brands decide to focus on says a lot about where they and their industry are headed.

No surprise then that EVs played such a central role in last night’s commercial entertainment. Automakers are investing tens of billions of dollars to transition to an EV future in the next five to 10 years and they’re doing this in anticipation of consumer demand and interest, rather than in response to it. The vast majority of people on the planet, including viewers of the Super Bowl, still drive cars that run on fossil fuels and most of them aren’t so overwhelmed by the idea of global warming that they’re dead set on going electric.

It’s imperative, therefore, that automakers create a mainstream movement for EVs, complete with financial and cultural relevance to a diverse array of customers. No better place to start than the Super Bowl. The automakers who advertised EVs last night included General Motors, BMW, Polestar, Kia, Chevrolet and Toyota. The latter sponsored the halftime show, complete with an electric pickup truck that scooted across the screen after the halftime entertainers, Dr Dre and Snoop Dog, exited stage left.

In General Motors’ ad, Dr Evil of the Austin Powers film series takes over GM headquarters, only to discover that he’s now in charge of a company that’s going electric to save the world from global warming. “I’m sorry, I’m no longer Doctor Evil, I’m Doctor Good now? I didn’t get the memo.” Ultimately, he gets onboard with the revolution. “We’re going all electric!” he declares.

For its ad, Toyota lined up Tommy Lee Jones, Rashida Jones and Leslie Jones to have a race between an old ICE Toyota Tundra and a newfangled Solar Octane Orange TRD Pro that runs on a V6 hybrid engine. In BMW’s ad, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Zeus, the Greek God of lightning, and Selma Hayek plays his wife Hera, both of whom rely on EVs to get their morning coffee. “Something electric is brewing,” says BMW.

Chevrolet highlighted its all-electric Silverado pickup on a cross country road trip. EV start-up Polestar jumped into the Super Bowl mix for the first time with a 30 second ad listing all the things it is not. “No: stunts, surprises, super models, comebacks, special effects, dance numbers, heartstrings…” the list went on and on.

Perhaps the most memorable EV ad of the night came from Kia, which enlisted the services of an adorable robotic puppy hoping to get purchased from a store shelf. Ultimately it takes matters into its own hands when it spies a Kia EV6 driving by. The Robo Dog breaks free, streams down the road in hot pursuit, busts through delivery boxes, rides an elevator to the top of a building and takes flight hoping to soar through the EV’s sunroof. Robo Dog’s battery dies mid-flight and it comes up just short but the EV driver comes to its rescue, plugs it in and straps the puppy into the passenger seat. Goofy? Sure. Sweet? Yes. Effective? We’ll see.

Automakers are yet to discover the magic formula for how to advertise EVs to the masses but if this Super Bowl was any indication, they’ll keep trying until they figure it out.

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