Emerging Image Of Fatherhood Depicted In Super Bowl XLIX Ads

resized dad watching football with sonTom Brady wasn’t the only star of Super Bowl XLIX. You could make a case that the other MVP of Sunday’s big game was…Dad.

Toyota, Nissan and Dove Men+Care all aired high-profile Super Bowl ads that have received overwhelmingly positive reviews.

The ads depicted fathers in caring, nurturing roles with their children, which fits with the evolving role of fathers seen in recent years. 

Possibly the most tear-jerking commercial of the night was Toyota’s “One Bold Choice” ad.

The 60-second spot cuts back and forth between a father driving with his daughter in a Camry to various scenes of him raising her throughout the years. You see them playing in the house, Dad building a treehouse, Dad picking his crying teenage daughter up in a rainstorm.

In the final scene, he drops her off at the airport to join the military as tears roll down his face.

“Being a dad is more than being a father. It’s a choice. A choice to get hurt rather than to hurt. To be bold when others are scared. A choice that says, ‘You’ll be there.’ To show them right from wrong by your words and by your actions. Being a dad is more than being a father. It’s a commitment. One that will make a wonderful human being, who will make their own choices someday,” the narrator reads.

Dove Men+Care’s #RealStrength spot also plays to the audience’s emotions as numerous fathers are depicted tending to their children’s needs as they call out “Dada!” and “Daddy!” One dad Facetimes with his daughters. Another father races to the monkey bars to save his stranded son.

“What makes a man stronger?” the commercial asks. “Care makes a man stronger.”

Nissan’s “With Dad” campaign, which was the company’s first Super Bowl ad in 18 years, shows a race car driver balancing his work life and parental duties to the tune of Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s Cradle.”

The ads are more than just cute. They appear to be indicative of broader shift in how fathers are portrayed in popular culture.

We already know from numerous research studies that dads are spending more time with their children than ever before and even experience biochemical changes when they build emotional ties with their kids. Now it appears the media is picking up on that trend.

Just a few years ago, Huggies found itself in the midst of a controversy after it aired an ad claiming to put its diapers to the ultimate test by leaving babies alone with dads for five days. Bumbling fathers were shown grimacing as they tried to change their baby’s diapers and closed with a woman saying, “Good luck, babe.”

The company was skewered for the ad and reversed its strategy by releasing a series of commercials portraying dads in a more positive light.

The Dad-as-Homer-Simpson stereotype was the norm in the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s, but now brands are looking to capitalize on the emotionally-involved father.

In coordination with Sunday’s ad, Dove Men+ Care launched its #RealStrength social media campaign that “encourages sports fans to show the personal, caring side of men in their lives by sharing photos across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.”

Nissan is utilizing a similar strategy on WithDad.com where YouTube users are asked to upload videos about what being a dad means to them.

Dove’s campaign is based on more than popular perception, but is grounded in actual research. The company interviewed 1,000 men in the U.S. and 2,000 in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil and China using online surveys for its 2014 “Care Makes a Man Stronger” study. The results of the survey showed that 86 percent of men think the idea of masculinity has evolved compared to their father’s generation, but believe the way masculinity is portrayed in the media has not caught up.

That means there’s a real opportunity for companies that play to those feelings to cash in.

More significantly, some experts are hopeful that the positive depiction of fathers could have a real influence on public opinions and attitudes.

“When commercials say gay couples are ‘OK’ or interracial marriage is ‘OK’ or involved fathers are ‘OK,’ then people come out of their shell and buy in,” Buzz Bishop, founder of the blog Dad Camp, told CNN.com. “Advertising doesn’t just sell products, it very much shapes public opinion.”

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