These Super Bowl Ads Changed Course In the Wake of Kobe Bryant’s Tragic Death

Since news broke of Kobe Bryant and eight others deaths from the Jan. 26 helicopter crash, a few companies with commercials primed for Super Bowl LIV changed course. Who are they and why did they have to reimagine their original concepts?

Planters Peanuts pulled an ad after stirring up controversy ahead of ‘Super Bowl LIV’

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts in the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center | Harry How/Getty Images

During its peak year, the Super Bowl pulled in an average of 114.4 million viewers. Ratings are on the downward slope, but it’s still among the most-watched events of the year. Companies want an advertising spot and a commercial that sticks.

Among one of the more confused, controversial ads for the 2020 Super Bowl comes from Planters. The original commercial released prior to the devastating crash. It might be viewed as insensitive or untimely.

In the 30-second spot released Jan. 20, Mr. Peanut cruises down the road in his Nutmobile with Wesley Snipes and Veep’s Matt Walsh. The car swerves to avoid and armadillo and ultimately drives off a cliff. The passengers hang from a branch that overlooks the vast canyon.

In the clip, the 104-year-old mascot lets go before the branch snaps. He falls to his death. Following the ad, Planters took to Twitter to share the news.

“We’re devastated to confirm that Mr. Peanut is gone,” they wrote. “He died doing what he did best – having people’s backs when they needed him most.”

A press release from the company encouraged fans to use the hashtag #RIPPeanut in Memorium. The company pulled the ad, then committed to following through again just as the tragic helicopter crash unfolded. As of now, it looks as though the ad will still run, despite the content.

Reactions to the legume’s death entertained — before the crash

Many companies joined in on the fun of saying farewell to Mr. Peanut when the nut’s “death” was first stated.

After the helicopter crash, however, the brand changed its tune and rightfully so.

“We are saddened by this weekend’s news and Planters has paused campaign activities, including paid media, and will evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy,” said a company spokesman after news of Bryant’s crash surfaced.

“At this point, the pause impacts only paid advertising (on channels like Twitter and YouTube), and some other outreach in the immediate wake of this tragedy. No change has been made to our plans for Super Bowl Sunday.”

Hard Rock International’s previous ad contained a triggering message

Super Bowl first-timer, Hard Rock International also changed its ad since the Jan. 26 crash. Reports say some of the material is insensitive, per Adweek.

The ad features a half-time show performer, Jennifer Lopez. It’s slated to be, “highly visual, fast action commercial that will leave a lasting impression on audiences,” according to a statement from the company.

It’s hard to say what’s been edited out of the spot. However, the Super Bowl is held at the Hard Rock Stadium, there’s pressure to create the perfect ad.

Hyundai made the call to eliminate this key piece of their ad

Luxury car brand, Hyundai is the third company to pull an ad they’d previously planned to air on Super Bowl Sunday. The commercial features Chrissy Teigen and John Legend attending a “going away party for old luxury.”

In the original, a parked helicopter sits in view. The new version edited the helicopter out of respect for the lives lost Jan. 26. A spokesperson said the commercial the right thing to do was immediately change it “out of compassion and sensitivity to the families.”