Feb 12, 2024

5 'Religious' Super Bowl Ads That Made Headlines

Clemente Lisi 
Religion Unplugged
February 8, 2024

NEW YORK — The Super Bowl attracts millions upon millions of television viewers. While the game decides which is the NFL’s best team, the Super Bowl is also a boon for advertisers looking to attract eyeballs to their products.

The average cost of a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl this year is $7 million, up slightly from $6.5 million just two years ago. Even as audiences become more fragmented, the Super Bowl continues to be the place for companies to buy ad time if they want to reach the masses.

Super Bowl commercials offer a rare opportunity for brands to reach a massive audience and generate lots of buzz around their products or services. As a result, Madison Avenue has given us many memorable Super Bowl commercials over the decades. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Apple have put out some famous ones.

But ads are not all secular. Religious organizations have often used the Super Bowl as a platform to spread their message. On other occasions, religious themes have been used in a funny way to sell products.

In 2018, for example, Toyota put marketing dollars behind an ad featuring nuns, a priest, a rabbi, an imam and a Buddhist monk. A California church was tasked with creating a Doritos commercial that aired in 2010 after winning an ad contest sponsored by the chip brand.

Here’s a look at five “religious” Super Bowl ads — two of which will run during this Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chief and San Francisco 49ers — that have made headlines over the years:

“Hallow” (2024)

Featuring actors Jonathan Roumie and Mark Wahlberg, the prayer app Hallow hopes to get some big-time visibility during this year’s Super Bowl for the first time.

The actors will help lead Hallow’s “Pray40” prayer challenge in time for the start of Lent with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 14.

“The goal at Hallow has always been to reach out to as many folks as possible, both those who take their faith seriously and especially those who might have fallen away, and invite them deeper into a relationship with God,” Alex Jones, Hallow’s CEO and co-founder, told the website Christian Headlines.

He added: “When we learned about the timing of the big game this year, we couldn’t have been more excited to work with Mark and Jonathan to use it as an opportunity to invite millions into prayer.”

“Stand Up To Jewish Hate” (2024)

The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hatred against Jews in the U.S., will air its first-ever Super Bowl commercial as the group seeks to raise awareness following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel.

The 30-second spot will continue the estimated $25 million #StandUpToJewishHate campaign, which began in March 2023. The FCAS was founded in 2019 by Robert Kraft, CEO of the Kraft Group and owner of the New England Patriots football team.

“With the horrific rise in Jewish hate and all hate across our nation, we must stand up and take urgent action now,” Kraft said. “For the first time, FCAS will air an emotive ad during the Super Bowl, football’s ultimate championship game which brings people of all backgrounds together, to showcase examples of how people can stand up to Jewish hate and inspire more people to join the fight against all hate.”

“He Gets Us” (2023)

A group that includes wealthy Christian donors used air time last year for the first time to proclaim a simple message: “He Gets Us.”

The group, which will run the ads once again this Sunday, wants to counter the notion that belief in Jesus is used to divide people.

“It fits with our target audience really well,” campaign spokesperson Jason Vanderground told The Associated Press about the NFL and its big game. “We’re trying to get the message across to people who are spiritually open, but skeptical.”

The group will again run another series of commercials at this year’s game. They will run a 60-second ad in the first quarter, then a 15-second follow-up in the second half.

“Knowledge” (2013)

For the first time, the Church of Scientology purchased commercial time in local markets during the Super Bowl in order to feature an ad that called on “the curious, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge.”

“Some will doubt you,” said the narrator in the ad over soft-focus images of mostly young, ethnically diverse strivers. “Let them. Dare to think for yourself, to look for yourself, to make up your own mind.”

The church has run ads ever since, including an one called “Live Again.” That ad, the 11th straight year the Church of Scientology premiered a new commercial during the Super Bowl, was produced in-house by Scientology Media Productions, the church’s communications center based in Hollywood.

“Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” (2010)

In 2010, the anticipated debut of a Super Bowl ad by Focus on the Family, a Christian ministry that supports traditional values, received praise from anti-abortion supporters and pushback from abortion rights advocates in the run-up to the game.

The ad featured Pam Tebow, mother of then-University of Florida football star Tim Tebow, talking about her challenging pregnancy with her son. She chose not to have an abortion despite medical concerns.

Despite calls from women’s groups to stop it from airing, CBS decided to air the ad.

“I think we ended up in the Top 10 for the most controversial ads. … That wasn’t the one I wanted, but it’s OK. I communicated a message,” Focus on the Family CEO Jim Daly said at the time.

Tebow, who would go on to have an NFL career, has said he never regretted making the public service announcement.

“I definitely didn't think it would have this much hype and definitely that much buzz,” he said, “but it’s something I believe in and I'll stand up for.”

Clemente Lisi is the executive editor of Religion Unplugged. He previously served as deputy head of news at the New York Daily News and a longtime reporter at The New York Post. Follow him on X @ClementeLisi.


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