Super Bowl Religious CommercialsThe 2024 Super Bowl did not disappoint fans who watched a thrilling game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. Usher played the halftime show, celebrating 20 years of his iconic album Confessions. Amidst the touchdowns, throwback tunes, and wild dancing, viewers also got an eyeful of religious content during commercial breaks. Here's a breakdown of the various ads sponsored by churches that aired during the Super Bowl.

Is the Super Bowl a Religious Event?

While the Super Bowl isn't a religious event, both the majority of players in the NFL and fans identify as Christian. More than half of professional football players are Black, and African Americans at large in the country have a strong connection to Christianity.

Football enthusiasts are used to seeing players pray on and off the field, and they have strong feelings about the presence of Christian traditions as part of the big game. When Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, conservative Christian viewers rallied for the NFL to blacklist the player so that he would never play football again.

Super Bowl ad space is costly, and over the years, religious organizations and churches have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make their presence known to viewers. Given that Christianity and football often go hand in hand in America, funders see this opportunity as a worthy investment.

What Religious Ads Aired During the Game?

The religious ads that got the most attention during the 2024 Super Bowl promoted the "He Gets Us" campaign, a movement spreading the message that Jesus embraces everyone. This campaign aired two commercials, "Foot Washing" and "Who Is My Neighbor?" These TV spots feature artistic photographs of people that society tends to judge and marginalize, such as queer people, addicts, a woman seeking an abortion, a homeless person, and more. The message appears to encourage Christians to accept people from all walks of life.

The "He Gets Us" campaign ads were not the only religious messages to air. Hallow, a Catholic meditation app, aired a commercial featuring actor Mark Wahlberg leading a collective prayer, inviting viewers to join in during Lent. The Church of Scientology also promoted itself by inviting viewers to get curious and explore what Scientology is all about in an ad titled "Decide for Yourself." Additionally, an ad sponsored by Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, encouraged people to stand up to antisemitism, and the government of Israel paid for an ad with a message that they vow to bring all Israeli prisoners home.

Do Americans Respond Well to Religious Ads?

Even though more than half of all Americans report that they identify with some form of Christianity, the responses to religious ads during the Super Bowl were largely negative. Conservative Christians in the media criticized the "He Gets Us" spots for being "overly woke" while progressive viewers decried the bait-and-switch tactics used in the ads that portray an anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion organization as being open and forward-thinking.

The Church of Scientology has aired ads during the Super Bowl for 12 years yet still receives a lot of criticism in the mainstream media and sees its membership numbers dwindle from year to year. The reception for its ads seems lukewarm at best, if not plainly negative.

The group Jewish Voice for Peace denounced the "Bring All Dads Home" ad paid for by Israel, calling it "incredibly disturbing." An advocate for the organization pointed out that it seems very hypocritical and wrong to uplift Israeli fathers while the government is simultaneously murdering thousands of Palestinian men and their children in Gaza.

Religious advertising will likely ramp up as a part of major cultural events like the Super Bowl. If anything, the responses reflect the growing ideological divide in the country.

Category: Freedom of Religion

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