Feb 13, 2022 - Sports

Local candidates look to Super Bowl ads to boost campaigns

David McCormick
David McCormick, Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Pennsylvania. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Local political candidates, eager to boost their name recognition in competitive races, are buying regional ads to run during the Super Bowl.

Why it matters: The Super Bowl is by far the most-viewed television event in America, making it a local candidate’s best opportunity to reach voters live. But many viewers — who have flocked to subscription streaming — may still be shocked to see a political ad alongside glossy Hollywood-produced car and beer commercials.

State of play: For candidates, especially in competitive swing states, advertising around the tentpole event could help make or break a campaign. Here are a few of the candidate ads that will run during this year's game:

  • Arizona: GOP Senate candidate Jim Lamon's Super Bowl ad shows him in a Western-style showdown with President Biden ("Old Joe"), Nancy Pelosi ("Crazyface Pelosi") and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly ("Shifty Kelly"). The ad will air locally in Tuscon and statewide, per Newsweek.
  • Lamon's ad, which features the candidate firing toward guns being held by actors portraying the three Democrats, drew immediate condemnation from advocacy organizations and victims of gun violence. Kelly is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a meet-and-greet with constituents outside a grocery store in Tucson in 2011.
  • Michigan: Perry Johnson, a GOP candidate for governor, will air a Super Bowl ad across much of the state on Sunday as part of a large advertising outreach effort, the Detroit News reported.
  • Oklahoma: Sen. James Lankford (R) will launch his first TV advertisements on Super Bowl Sunday, including a 30-second spot in which he vows to “stand up” for gun rights, border security, and religious freedom, among other issues, the Tulsa World reported.
  • Pennsylvania: Former Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick, who's seeking the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Pat Toomey, will air an ad across NBC's platforms in Pennsylvania Sunday, slamming the "self-inflicted" nature of the problems facing the Biden administration.

Context: Local candidates have long used the Super Bowl as an opportunity to reach voters while they’re glued to their TV sets.

  • Ads at the local level are typically much cheaper than running a national spot, which this year could cost up to $7 million. 

Zoom out: At the national level, this year’s ads — featuring more celebrities than in years past — will not be very political. That’s because it isn’t a presidential election year, and because brands are pushing to embrace more positive messaging compared to years past.

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