The Associated Press called it, “The Budweiser Ad That Made You Cry During The Super Bowl.” There was Lieutenant Chuck Nadd returning home from Afghanistan only to be thrown a surprise “welcome home” parade by the good people at Budweiser. He and his wife even traveled through the celebration pulled by Clydesdales “aboard the famously-red Budweiser beer wagon.”
Then, after the ad ended, there was Lt. Chuck Nadd, in the stands at Met Life Stadium watching the Super Bowl. (Hopefully, he did not have to take public transportation there. The Clydesdales would have been a faster ride.)
Seeing Lt. Nadd at the big game was an audacious triple lindy of product placement. You had the military, the NFL and, of course, the smooth taste of Budweiser, all in one Fox camera shot of corporate Americana. (Budweiser is actually owned by a Belgian/Brazilian consortium, but details…)
Commercials like these, not to mention the NFL’s showing live shots of troops watching the game from Kandahar, have become so par for the course, it does not even register. It also serves a purpose for the NFL above and beyond a nod of respectful recognition to the troops. Drew Magary at Deadspin captured this last November. He wrote, “Any time the NFL slaps a camo ribbon on their unis, any time Fox cuts to a bunch of happy veterans…it helps portray the league as some kind of noble civic endeavor when it’s actually just an entertainment venture and moneymaking apparatus designed to rake in billions of dollars and fuck your town out of stadium money. The Falcons, to take one example, managed to euchre $200 million out of taxpayers for their new stadium. One stroke of a pen, and Arthur Blank has an extra $200 million to put Sicilian marble in his luxury box shitters. Compare that to the $800,000 the league donated last year [to military charities]. That $800,000 helps buy the American flag the Falcons and other teams get to hide behind any time you start to wonder if the league really does have the public’s interests at heart.”
This is all true. The NFL uses the military like Lourdes, all its sins of corporate welfare, medical malpractice and institutionalized racism are washed away in a red, white and blue cleansing courtesy of Uncle Sam. There is another side of this as well. Yes, the NFL benefits by cloaking itself in the military, but the military also benefits by linking arms with the NFL. It makes the military look like a game, an adventure, a burst of adrenaline. You are Marshawn Lynch in beast mode, only you’re holding an M-16 instead of a football. Sure, you will make 1/100 that of an NFL player, but you get the sense of teamwork and the rush you associate with the NFL on Sundays.