Do political ads belong in the Super Bowl?

The Super Bowl has always been known for its commercials as much as it is for football.

The game is the biggest advertising event of the year, and the opportunity to reach such a large audience doesn’t come cheap (a 60-second commercial during Super Bowl LIV cost $10 million).

2020 marked the first year political advertisements ran during the Super Bowl as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg each ran minute-long commercials during the game, which drew 102 million viewers.

According to Forbes, Trump and Bloomberg have reported net worths of $3.1 billion and $61.5 billion respectively; and according to NPR, they are two of the top three fundraisers among candidates (the third is Democrat Tom Steyer).

The Super Bowl is an ideal time to spend big on ads, and the two richest candidates did just that.

Sporting events are often an escape from the constant barrage of political news, but sports have become more politicized in recent years.

When 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick made headlines for protesting racial inequality by kneeling during the national anthem, he stirred up an intense controversy.

Nike jumped on this controversy and ran an ad campaign featuring the polarizing quarterback, and their

stock increased 5% in two weeks. Trump and Bloomberg emulated Nike’s strategy by not only spreading their messages (Trump’s ads focused on criminal justice reform and the economy, while Bloomberg’s opposed gun violence) but also by getting people talking in the process. Both ads were a departure from the lighter nature of Super Bowl commercials, which are typically funny or heartwarming to appeal to the emotions of the audience.

Trump is already well-known, but Bloomberg’s ad put his name in front of millions of Americans who were less familiar with him. Bloomberg is expected to spend $300 million of his own money on TV ads leading up to the March primaries, and with a lesser- known background than some other candidates, he hopes to leave a strong impression on voters.

Many fans believe politics should remain separate from sports, but there was no missing Trump’s and Bloomberg’s ads during this year’s Super Bowl. The ads fell at a time of particular political commotion, right between Trump’s impeachment trial and the Iowa Caucuses.

63% of Americans believe the Super Bowl is an “inappropriate platform for political ads from candidates,” according to a poll from data research company Morning Consult.

However, with the 2020 election approaching, it is likely that we will continue to see political ads on TV during sporting events.