Super Bowl Ads: A Green Live Blog


Photo via New York Times

We're live blogging on the lookout for green in Super Bowl 43! TreeHugger is providing up-to-the-minute green coverage of all the ads, events, and madness surrounding America's unofficial national holiday. So what's green about this year's Super Bowl?

Only one way to find out . . .

Refresh every 5 or 10 minutes to get the latest updates, and please leave any thoughts/observations in the comments to join the discussion.

Super Bowl 43 Green Live Blog
The Recap:
So after the ad-dust settled, here's the green breakdown of the Super Bowl:

Car Ads: Lexus, Audi, Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai all ran ads.

# of Ads for Hybrids or Fuel Efficient Cars: 0

Total # of 'Green' Ads: 2--both from GE; one Ecoimagination ad, and one ad for smart grid technology.

In sum, there was less green in Super Bowl 43 than even my skeptical self had expected. And GE's ads made no lofty claims and announced no new initiatives. They just floated the names of wind power and smart grids, and at least broadcast the ideas of energy efficiency and renewable power into the American collective consciousness.

The bulk of the other ads were movie trailers and product focused, as usual, creatively promoted unabashed consumerism. But this is isn't news--we all knew already that much of American culture is largely based on consumption. And maybe the Super Bowl isn't the best place to look for green initiatives. However, I for one, will continue to watch future Super Bowls for signs of progress on the green front, and for indications that our collective emphasis on consuming is beginning to change.

I'm hopeful--there are positive signs out there that change on this front is slowly taking root. But I might be watching a lot Super Bowls.

[10:29] The first Eco-Friendly Super Bowl Tee! Not sure how exactly it's eco-friendly, but the NFL ad said it is, so it must be! Made from organic cotton, maybe?

[10:10] Well, that's the game . . . looks like the mayor of Arizona owes the mayor of Pittsburgh some trees. Each mayor agreed to plant a tree native to their area in the victorious team's city after the game.

[10:03] So it seems that GE will be the only company to promote green in the Super Bowl 43 . . .

[9:57] Close game, here.

[9:45] Even though this was a light green ad about wind energy from GE, you do have to hand it to them for being the only company to lay down upwards of $6 mill for a spot advocating alternative energy. This one featured a kid bottling 'wind energy' and giving it to his grandfather. Metaphors abound.

At least ads like this are helping renewable energy maintain a public profile.

[9:34] A GE Eco Imagination ad. You may remember these from when they saturated the Olympic Games' coverage. More in a minute . . .

[9:30] The GE Smart Grid Ad:

It's the first, and potentially only ad aimed squarely at promoting or introducing concepts of energy efficiency in this Super Bowl. As was noted in an earlier post by Mr. Richard, the main purpose of this ad is to raise public acceptance of the concept itself by raising the visibility of ideas like smart grids. Oh wait, I spoke too soon--here's an Eco Imagination ad spot--

[9:24] Ah ha! The GE Smart Grid ad we've been waiting for--and it did indeed feature a dancing scarecrow. The only purpose of its existence, however, seemed to be to use the words "smart grid technology.' More on this, and the ad video, in a minute . . .

[9:21] Here's the Cash 4 Gold ad, starring MC Hammer and Ed McMahon. Keep in mind that this is absolutely real:

[9:18] Cash 4 Gold just aired an ad. On the Super Bowl. Such ads are usually relegated to the confines of late night cable TV--this is the only distinct reflection that the country is in a recession I've seen yet.

[9:10] The Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, where Super Bowl 43 is being held, has evidently been making some major strides in energy efficiency and recycling initiatives over the last couple years. The report from the New York Times says this:

Over the past five years, efficiency measures like smarter use of chillers and better lighting have saved the stadium $580,000, officials estimated. (That’s roughly the price of 300 low-end Super Bowl tickets available Friday for resale on Stub Hub.)

The stadium’s electric bill has risen by just 23 percent in five years, better than the average increases of 42 percent.

It's interesting that this wasn't more highly publicized . . .

[9:05] Pretty intense ad for the reality show 'Axmen' about loggers for the History Channel. I'll post the video as soon as it comes up on Hulu

[8:52] Here's one of the best examples of the 'pain sells' ads, this one from Pepsi. What do you think?

[8:45] So the Super Bowl is more than half over, and I haven't heard a single mention of green. I know this is full throttle entertainment . . . but not even a mention of a hybrid? Not even a single company trying to promote a green idea? Just sayin'.

[8:35] Denny's just announced via their Super Bowl ad that they're giving a free Grand Slam breakfast to everyone in America on Tuesday. Guinness Book of World Records, get ready to amend your "most pancakes made on a single day" category.

[8:25] Here's the ad for the Toyota Venza:

[8:20] Another Toyota ad, this time for the Tundra, following one for the Venza. Still no mention of a hybrid of any kind. Sort of surprising for a company that plans on launching 10 new hybrids over the next couple years.

[8:15] Bruce Springsteen was born to run.

[8:05] While it may seem obvious that I've been harping on ad narratives and their relentless intent to sell, I guess I'm a little surprised that the consumerism runs so rampant on the heels of a year where there was so much hope for a paradigm shift for the greener. We should, after all, be buying nothing, not everything in sight.

I know there's an economy to boost here, but there are plenty of ways we can fuel the economy greenly without reverting to the buy-at-all-costs mentality that's partially responsible for getting us into this mess.

[8:00] Attack of the bottled drinks! Sobe and Gatorade are the latest (with Gatorade sponsoring the halftime report) to grace the screen. And while bottled water may seem like the most obviously egregious bottled drink, since there's such an obvious, free alternative (tap water), these bottled drinks are no different when it comes to heavy carbon-emitting production and distribution.

[7:45] Jay Leno driving down the road in a classic car. That's it. That's the house ad for NBC. It almost seems like NBC is going out of its way not to include a single environmentally conscious message.

[7:42] A question for all to consider upon already viewing the umpteenth ad featuring someone falling down and/or crashing into something. Does the prospect of personal injury make people more inclined to buy stuff? Just a thought--maybe we can convince some alternative energy companies to make ads where people trip over solar panes and run into wind turbines. That could be the key.

[7:40] More ads to consider: Cars.com, Gatorade, and more Hyundai harping. Where's the green?

[7:35] While we're still on beer, here's the Conan ad from Budweiser:

[7:25] So all these beer ads--and all the people drinking beer at this very moment around the nation have reminded me: the big beer industries like Budweiser seem to have all but given up on their 'green' beers. What about Anheuser-Busch's two organic beers? Haven't heard from those since they debuted in 2006. Bigger beer companies--especially when not drank from the tap--have pretty serious environmental footprint, from the mass farming, the processing, distribution, delivery trucks, and so on. Hope everyone bought local beers tonight, or you're enjoying the game at the bar. And therefore not reading this. Ahem.

[7:12] Speak of the devil--another Clydesdale ad--linking a recurring narrative over the years with a simple underlying theme: buy beer, and drink beer.

[6:58] We can be sure to see a lot more of Budweiser, they're reliable Super Bowl staples. Here was their much-discussed ad from last year's Bowl:

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Budweiser admittedly makes some clever ads that make their way into American mythology. Is it possible we'll see a genuine green ad as clever and 'catchy' tonight? I have my doubts . . .

[6:50] And the consumption-o-rama has begun! Doritos and Pepsi lead the pack with ads about people getting hit in the nuts, and something about new and old generations, respectively. Next up, an admittedly hilarious ad starring Conan O'Brien for Budweiser. Buy stuff, America! Buy the same stuff you always have!

[6:45] Jason Stratham just showed up in an ad evidently spliced (poorly) from extra footage from Transporter 3. The ad was for Audi, with nary a nod towards anything green. So far, that makes 2 car ads, both aiming for the luxury market, and neither with any trace of conservation of any kind in mind. Is a trend developing here . . . ?

[6:35] Alright, time to start paying attention to the ads: from here on out each spot will have cost $3 million, according to Consumerist. Which probably means some shiny cars, some ads with that annoying Verizon guy, some mildly humorous and mildly creative beer ads, and if we're lucky, a few ads highlighting companies' 'green' initaitives.

[6:30] Kick off, game on. Which means, no ads for a while. Maybe its time to throw some chicken wings in the oven.

[6:25] The Super Bowl is sponsored by Hyundai this year, who are pushing their new car, the Genesis. It's a luxury sedan that gets 18 mpg according to the Hyundai website.

[6:20] In the time honored tradition of flaunting costly extravagance, 6 fighter jets fly over the Tampa stadium at the end of the National Anthem.

[6:15] Kurt Warner won Man of the Year Award for his work with Habitat for Humanity, and Chesley Sullenberger and his flight crew were recognized for landing their airplane safely in the Hudson, preventing, along with catastrophic tragedy, New York's river from filling with even more pollution and debris than usual.

[6:05] Also, let's start watching for egregious ads--especially ones that capture the public's attention, like the notorious Where's the Beef Wendy's ad that highlights our nation's decades-long love affair with beef:

If you catch one that I miss, go ahead and leave me a comment. 20 minutes before the madness begins . . .

[5:55] So far, so not-so-good. There have already been at least two ads for Marquis Jets, a private aviation service. And the game hasn't even started yet. From the Marquis website:

Flying privately can truly change your life and Marquis Jet makes it easier than ever. The Marquis Jet CardSM provides access to NetJets - the gold standard for private aviation operators - 25 hours at a time. NetJets operates the largest private jet fleet in the world and sets the industry standards in safety and personal service*.

Exactly what we need in a time of economic and environmental peril. Private jet services.

[5:45] Here are some things to watch for during the game:

Green Superbowl Ads to Watch For
Keep an eye out for GE's planned ad for smart grid technologies, which will attempt to drum up popular support for more efficient energy at a time when the political climate is ideal for such an initiative. Also, it will feature a dancing scarecrow.

One ad you won't see is PETA's canceled spot which alleges vegetarians have better sex. It was deemed too suggestive for airing.

And it seems the days of Kermit and his support for Ford hybrids are past, and of 'living green by going yellow" as well. Both ads were featured in the 2006 Super Bowl, where they highlighted how "green" GM and Ford allegedly were. Now we know how well that worked out.

According to NPR, there will be no ads from any of the Big Three—seems they'd rather not be the center of attention for the time being for some reason. But do watch for spots from foreign car makers like Toyota, which should push greener cars.

[5:30] Let's start things off with how 'green' this Super Bowl is alleged to be in general:

How 'Green' is Super Bowl 43?
Last year, the Super Bowl went "green," and washttp://www.greentechgazette.com/index.php/renewable-energy/super-bowl-xlii-goes-green-with-renewable-energy/ powered by renewable energy and "trees were planted on seven local school campuses as well as 96 acres of reforestation in celebration of Super Bowl XLII."

But it was still a Greenhouse Gastrazaganza: 400 private jets flew to Phoenix, and emitted unholy amounts of carbon dioxide. So even though it aimed to be a truly carbon neutral Super Bowl, it's hard to have any illusions about the event.

Attempts to green the Super Bowl have been made for the last fifteen years or so, and it's really no wonder we haven't seen an overwhelming success: it's an event that celebrates and revels in consumerism.

This year, we've seen less publicity directed at 'green' in general, but some of the initiatives stuck around: they're again buying renewable energy and planting trees. Better than nothing, but this year the purchases don't come close to neutralizing the emissions of the event.

Some Super Bowl Stats:
-It's the most partied-on day. More house parties are thrown on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year, including New Year's Eve.
-Around $55 million is spent on food in preparation for watching the game every year.
-Americans will eat the vast majority of that food within the first 15 minutes of the game.
-Super Bowl Sunday is day featuring the second most food consumption in America (1st being Thanksgiving)

Stats from Associated Content

Today is Super Bowl Sunday. But unless you're a reclusive cave-dweller, you already knew that. What you might not know is that TreeHugger is providing up-to-the-minute green coverage of all the ads, events, and madness surrounding America's unofficial national holiday. How many "green" ads will show up? How many will be utter greenwashing? How much greenhouse gas will the Bowl emit? How much food will Americans consume over the course of our glorious excess-a-thon?

We'll be tackling all these questions, live, throughout the Super Bowl, starting around 5:30 EST.

In other words, TreeHugger is taking on the Super Bowl. So bookmark this page, and keep your Refresh button within clicking distance. This could get ugly.

Tags: Consumerism | Greenwashing | Sports