Should Superstar Athletes Quit Their Day Jobs? Survey of Super Bowl Ads

Should Superstar Athletes Quit Their Day Jobs? A Survey of Super Bowl Ads

Should Superstar Athletes Quit Their Day Jobs? A Survey of Super Bowl Ads

The Super Bowl provides a global platform for elite athletes to show off their skills, and the results, as we see, can be amazing. Likewise, Super Bowl commercials offer a showcase for athletes to demonstrate their acting chops. And these results can be . . . well, let’s say somewhat less than spectacular.

How did athletes—both current and former–fare in their Super Bowl ad performances?

Should they quit their day jobs for life on the silver screen?
A quick look at their efforts helps answer those questions..

Efficient and Serviceable

Tom Brady is probably pretty happy with his football career right now. Acting honors would be just gravy. But hold your applause. In a Super Bowl spot for Intel, he wakes up (in a Giselle-less apartment) and mugs appropriately, reenacting his boring morning routine as a highlight reel. It’s an okay commercial and an okay acting job.

Likewise, in a less-than-memorable spot for Sprite, LeBron James hits his marks and delivers his lines with understated efficiency. He and Brady both turn in competent performances. They don’t embarrass themselves, even if they don’t wow anyone either. Although they won’t need to make room for an Oscar on their shelves, they were far from the evening’s worst (Justin Bieber has dibs on that distinction).

Super Bowl Ads

A Custom-Fit Role

Some advertising genius had the bright idea to cast Cam Newton as a football player. Not much of a stretch, to be sure, but a great way to bring out his best. In an ad for Buick, he delivers the goods as the unstoppable quarterback of a kiddie team, proving that his appeal extends off the field. Of course, the real highlight of the spot is the receiver’s face as he prepares for Cam’s bullet-like throw (well, Miranda Kerr is a highlight, too).


Unfair Advantage?

Football legend Terry Bradshaw has had 22 years to perfect his kid-on-a-sugar-rush persona as an onscreen sports analyst (his Steelers career lasted 14 seasons), so maybe he had an unfair advantage. But his Tide spot was by far the best of the Super Bowl bunch. He is extravagantly deranged by a stain on his shirt, becoming a viral phenomenon in the process (“I’m trending!”), even if he is baffled by what that means.

Super Bowl Ads

Leave It to the Pros

Of course the big finish of the Tide ad is left to screen veteran Jeffrey Tambor (star of Amazon’s Transparent). His deadpan delivery (“It’s not what’s on here, it’s what’s in here”) provides the perfect foil for Bradshaw’s hyperactivity.

Overall, screen veterans stole the show from athletes again and again. Christopher Walken offered an on-the-verge performance pitching “Bai, Bai, Bai” drinks (Justin Timberlake makes an effective cameo). John Malkovich was similarly almost-but-not-quite bonkers in his SquareSpace spot. And comic actress Kristen Schaal killed in two T-Mobile ads, as a Verizon customer who positively loves service charges.

The best advice, it seems–for football and for acting–is this: Leave it to the pros.

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