Modern technology has turned commercials, one of the foundations of the American television viewing experience, into a shadow of their former selves. Ads are now easily avoided thanks to the plethora of viewing options that allow the view to skip over ads altogether, limiting the cultural resonance of even the best campaigns.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t good commercials out there. While many Americans can watch their Netflix-streamed seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad sans commercials, sports fans remain a captive audience for Madison Avenue to broadside with uber-cool ads, because sports are still best enjoyed live. The incentive to do commercials big and flashy is higher than ever before.
There are a slew of quality sports-themed ads on television right now, hawking products from insurance to the new edition of the FIFA video game franchise. Here are some of the best.
State Farm “Discount Double Check” featuring Aaron Rodgers and BJ Raji
While competitor Geico gets the bulk of the praise when it comes to insurance ads (though things are going downhill quickly), it’s State Farm that has managed to produce a series of funny ads featuring one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is a star in America’s biggest sport, but he does play in the NFL’s smallest market. Nevertheless, the ads are a good use of his personality. The most recent spot adds Packers defensive tackle BJ Raji to the mix, adding a twist to the Discount Double Check move. Drop it Raji.
FIFA 13 “Join the Club” featuring a cast of Snoop and Andrew Luck
EA Sports’ newest iteration of their immensely popular FIFA franchise comes with the requisite high-quality ads. The “Join The Club” campaign shows FIFA player entering a members-only club with some of soccer’s biggest names, with crossover stars like Snoop Lion thrown in for good measure. There’s even a cameo by the number one pick of this year’s NFL draft, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. The message here: America is all-in on FIFA.
Madden 13 featuring Ray Lewis Paul Rudd
Who knew Ravens great Ray Lewis, still going strong in his 17th year at linebacker, could be funny? Paired with Paul Rudd in a series of ads for another of EA Sports’ offering, the NFL Madden franchise, Lewis is perfectly suited for the role. Lewis has turned himself into a media darling, with actual selling power, despite a troubling brush with the law earlier in his career. Rudd’s the bigger star, but it’s Lewis who makes the ads worth watching. Play Madden because Ray says so. Ray’s your family.
DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket featuring Deion Sanders and Eli Manning
Eli is the “other” Manning brother when it comes to the ad game (he actually has one more Super Bowl championship than his more famous brother Peyton), but he has an “aww shucks” quality that works well when paired with the cocksure delivery of flashy ex-NFLer Deion Sanders. The pair are little football fairies in this ad for DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket package, and it’s nearly impossible to resist anything involving football players dressed as little fairies. That’s a fact.
This Is Sportscenter featuring John Clayton
The commercials for ESPN’s flagship news show, Sportscenter, have been some of the best on TV for more than a decade. The ads use the network’s talent–anchors, reporters, talking heads–to highlight the basic whimsy of the job, covering games day-in and day-out. In the world of the This Is Sportscenter ads, famous athletes mill about the cafeteria and costumed mascots type copy; it’s like a sportsfan’s Shangri-La, in the middle of Connecticut. This ad, featuring unassuming NFL reporter John Clayton, lives up the high standard set by the endless string of quality commercials that came before it. It’s wonderful because it we can easily imagine Clayton living this life in reality–the fake suit top, the Slayer, the eating Chinese in bed, the living at home with mom.
Jason Davis is a freelance writer who covers soccer and other sports for outlets like The Guardian, ESPNFC, The Score, and others. He lives in Virginia.