These didn't land well with audiences
The Super Bowl isn't just about the football!
In addition to the game, millions of viewers tune in just to catch the big budget commercials that air in between the plays. Brands spend massive amounts of money to not only secure airtime but also ensure that their commercial is one to remember.
While some ads leave viewers in their feelings, other commercials end up leaving an impression for the wrong reasons. Through the years, there have been more than a few ads deemed controversial by audiences and despite companies spending millions on the broadcast, their ads end up getting pulled from the air after the game.
Here are some of the most controversial commercials that have aired during the Super Bowl…
1. Holiday Inn: Class Reunion
In 1997, Holiday Inn released an ad promoting their $1 billion renovation project although they chose to publicize it in a controversial way. In their Super Bowl commercial, a woman could be seen walking into a high school reunion as a narrator commented on her plastic surgery procedures. It turns out the woman was transgender -- and the commercial compared her gender reassignment surgery to the renovations happening at the hotel chain. The ad ended up being dropped shortly after.
"We understand that the ad has offended some people. That was never our intention, and that's why I have today taken the action to discontinue any further broadcast of the Super Bowl ad," Holiday Inn executive John Sweetwood said in a statement.
2. Snickers: Manly
Snickers' 2007 commercial wasn't received well by the LGBTQ+ community. In the ad, two men accidentally kiss while sharing a Mars candy bar. They appear to be embarrassed by the situation and immediately respond by needing to do something "manly." The website for the candy bar also featured videos of players from the Super Bowl teams reacting to the kiss.
Both the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD expressed that the commercial was homophobic and encouraged bullying. It was eventually pulled from both television and online.
"This type of jeering from professional sports figures at the sight of two men kissing fuels the kind of anti-gay bullying that haunts countless gay and lesbian school children on playgrounds all across the country," Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said in a statement.
3. FedEx "Wizard of Oz"
In 2000, FedEx's Super Bowl commercial ended up getting banned for promoting drug use. The commercial was inspired by "The Wizard of Oz" and featured a group of Munchkins who got a FedEx delivery of helium balloons that they inhaled to keep their voices high. The company decided to pull the ad after getting complaints that it may give the impression that it's okay to huff inhalants.
4. Just For Feet: Kenyan Runner
In 1999, shoe store Just For Feet released a Super Bowl commercial that was widely regarded as racist. In the ad, a barefoot Kenyan runner could be seen getting chased by a vehicle full of white men. After drugging him, they forcibly put shoes on his feet. When the commercial received a ton of backlash, Just For Feet ended up blaming their agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, and filed a lawsuit that they eventually dropped.
5. Salesgenie.com: Talking Pandas
Salesgenie.com ran a commercial during the 2008 Super Bowl that featured a pair of talking pandas. In the ad, the pandas spoke in exaggerated Chinese accents which offended some viewers. Its parent company, InfoUSA, ended up pulling the ad and apologizing.
"We never thought anyone would be offended. The pandas are Chinese. They don't speak German. If I offended anybody, believe me, I apologize," InfoUSA chief executive Vinod Gupta told the NY Times.
6. Skechers: Dog Racing
Skechers' 2012 Super Bowl commercial didn't sit well with animal lovers. In fact, there was a petition to get the commercial dropped even before it hit the air. Unfortunately, the commercial, which features dogs racing, was still aired -- and ended up getting a lot of backlash from animal rights organizations.
While the company was accused of promoting dog racing, Skechers' defended the commercial and said it was not their intention. In a letter, Skechers executive Gary Patrick said that they followed the Humane Society's provisions and do not promote the practice of dog racing.
7. Groupon: Tibet
Timothy Hutton starred in Groupon's 2011 commercial which was supposed to be a play on a PSA-style commercial. The company compared people coming together for a charitable cause to users coming together to get a great deal on Groupon. In the spot, Timothy could be heard discussing the struggle of Tibetan people before pivoting to explaining how he scored a deal at a Tibetan restaurant.
"The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy. But they still whip up an amazing fish curry…and since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we're each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago," Timothy said.
The commercial received a lot of social media backlash, with some saying the commercial trivialized the "suffering and oppression" of Tibetans under Chinese rule. In response, Groupon CEO Andrew Mason said the ad was intended to be a "spoof" and the site was actually actively raising money for the Tibetan people.
8. Ram Trucks: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2018, Ram Trucks used an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Drum Major Instinct" sermon, using it to share the idea that its Ram trucks are "built to serve." Not only did it receive criticism for using Dr. King's words but it also raised questions whether his family approved of the ad. On top of that, the overarching message in the sermon was actually very anti capitalist and even criticized car advertisements.
9. Dodge: I Will
In Dodge's 2010 Super Bowl commercial, a group of men were shown monotonously rattling off complaints -- and a lot of them involved their wives. The commercial implied that the only reason that men put up with such inconveniences is so that they can drive a Dodge Charger. The company ended up facing backlash for the misogynistic commercial.