Defy Labels

6 Ads That Make Super Bowl 50 The Gayest Ever

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Athletes in tight pants, Lady Gaga and Beyonce won’t be the only reasons to watch Super Bowl 50. A record six LGBTQ-inclusive commercials will vie for your attention, even though there is not yet a single openly gay player in the NFL.

This year’s ads (at $5 million every 30 seconds) run the gamut. The word gay is actually used in MINI Cooper’s ad, Axe redefines masculinity in advertising, queer stars entertain for Butterfinger and Snickers, meanwhile, goes with a Marilyn Monroe female impersonator joke that may not make everyone happy. And we’re not even including the one in which Ryan Reynolds plays football with himself, and gives himself a traffic ticket as a motorcycle cop.

This isn’t your father’s Super Bowl.

Here are the six spots gaying up the game, so keep an eye out for them all:

1. Mini Cooper, BMW

BMW tackles stereotypes in its Mini commercial. Tennis star Serena Williams begins with “This is a chick car” and retired soccer player Abby Wambach adds, with air quotes, “This is a ‘gay car.’ ” A list of other labels follows and Harvey Keitel concludes: “This car doesn’t care what you call it.” Then the campaign slogan DEFY LABELS appears.

Each star in the MINI ad also has a longer web video. Wambach speaks to the camera, in black-and-white, documentary-style interview: “I’ve been called a girl, a tomboy, a dyke, a lesbian, a butch, a bitch…I accepted who I was at a pretty early age…You have to honor and own who you are, period.”

2. Axe, Unilever

Unilever’s commercial for Axe champions individuality and mocks the idealized man common in advertising. “Come on, a six-pack?” the narrator asks, launching into a series of questions emphasizing everyone’s special feature or ability. “Who needs a six-pack when you’ve got the nose?” Then, showing a man voguing, he asks who needs “fire when you rock those heels?” It even features a dude with a kitten in his beard.

This is revolutionary stuff for the Super Bowl — and Axe.

3. Snickers, Mars Inc.

As you’re enjoying your beer and pretzels, Mars Inc. continues its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” gender reversal campaign for Snickers, which has featured Betty White and Joan Collins as men. This time Willem Dafoe appears as Marilyn Monroe during the classic dress-over-the-subway-grate scene from “The Seven Year Itch.” This approach doesn’t exactly break  barriers and may irk some transgender advocates. We’re supposed to be laughing at the gender mismatch (and maybe the choice of Willem Dafoe).

This year’s ad may well be better than the violent, homophobic series that got pulled in 2007, when two men “accidentally kissed” and had to “do something manly” to make up for it, such as beat each other up.


4. Butterfinger, Nestle

Nestle does much better with another candy bar, Butterfinger. Comedian Billy Eichner has a cameo in an absurdist spot about a motocross jump with robot piranhas. Eichner also stars in a video of on-the-street interviews accompanied by NFL star Terrell Owens – known for a trademark touchdown bird dance when he played for the Philadelphia Eagles. Eichner gets more time to be funny in the video.


Website builder pairs Entourage star Rex Lee with NFL star Brett Favre as he dreams up post-football occupations. Lee doesn’t get much screen time here but he brings a clever presence.

6. Ridgeline, Honda

Top the big game off with a Honda Ridgeline truck ad featuring a flock of sheep secretly singing Queen’s “Somebody to Love,” and you’ve got one of the gayest football Super Bowls since Joe Namath donned Beautymist pantyhose or the Wayans brothers explained football as Blaine Edwards and Antoine Merriweather during halftime.

Equality sure is a great way to celebrate 50 years in football and its advertising.

Michael Wilke has covered LGBT issues in advertising for 23 years, is the founder of Commercial Closet/, and Senior US Consultant for LGBT marketing and diversity firm Out Now.