Chevy’s EV Commercials Hope To Capture The NFL’s Appealing Audiences

Several media outlets exuberantly reported this week that GM announced it was targeting NFL Sunday football with an “offensive and critical” advertising campaign to promote its new EV lineup. Like many other legacy automakers, GM continues to brand its transition to an all-electric catalog through traditional television. Chevrolet has figured that the best way to get the word out about its soon-to-be released models is to broadcast an assortment of EV commercials at the place “where America gathers.”

The EV commercials feature Chevrolet’s upcoming electric offerings: the Blazer EV, Equinox EV, and Silverado EV, vehicles that are expected to be released in 2023.

Steve Majoros, director of Chevrolet marketing, chatted with the Detroit Free Press about the plans for NFL game breaks at the North American International Auto Show. Majoros exclaimed the ads — “very bright, optimistic –” will run for about 3 months and emphasize that Chevy EVs are “built for everyone, everywhere.”

Describing the campaign as having a “very simple” theme, Majoros envisioned each ad as a way “to tell America about these great new products,” to let “everyone know this story is coming together.”

General Motors CEO Mary Barra last year said the company can “absolutely” catch industry leader Tesla in US sales of EVs by 2025. It’s interesting then that “this story” of Chevy as legacy automaker and its transition to EVs hasn’t followed the marketing lead of Tesla, the highest selling all-electric car company, which has rejected advertising in lieu of social media messaging and special events to which writers (like me) rush.

Instead, automakers like Chevy continue try to tap into the pleasure zones of its target audiences through EV commercials that are often little slice of life vignettes that resonate with viewers as they draw upon shared cultural competences. Chevy spokesperson Megan Soule said the campaign follows the brand’s historical emphasis on a “celebration of things that make America, America – its innovation, its communities, and its electrifying attitude towards life.”

There’s a certain rationale to that thinking. After all, didn’t everyone want to “see the USA in a Chevrolet?”

Of all the Chevy commercials ever produced, the one below, “Nothing Works Like a Chevy Truck,” captures the essence of the brand — they’re depicted as tough, reliable, safe vehicles for working class folks. It’s a pesky kind of persistence of memory that makes Chevy’s conversion to EVs tricky.

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An EV — For Everyone?

There is some real hyperbole going on here in the initial glimpse of the GM all-electric catalog through its EV commercials.

The title reads, “The First-Ever All-Electric Chevy Equinox EV — An EV for Everyone | Chevrolet.

“First ever?” There has been a Tesla EV on the road since 2008, when CEO Elon Musk took delivery of the Roadster. Even Chevy itself already sells battery electric models: the Chevy Bolt and the Chevy Bolt EUV (one could also argue that the hybrid Volt, too, although no longer in production, is partially electric).

“An EV for Everyone.” If “everyone” is seeking an EV strictly for lower end new car starting price “around $30,000,” then the Equinox meets that goal. At $35,000 less than the Tesla Model Y, the Equinox should have real competitive power — at least on the pricing side.

“It’s everything you want in an electric SUV.” That bit of overstatement neglects the fact that most EV buyers have purchasing criteria that extend beyond price to include battery size, charging network availability, performance, safety, reliability, styling, and technology features.

The Chevy EV commercials end with the statement, “Finally, an EV for everyone.” The implication here is that previous EVs have appealed to a different audience than the typical and loyal Chevy owners — and American football fans — over the years. By default, they’re an Other. Those EVs wouldn’t have suited the folks pictured in that all-time-favorite “Nothing Works Like a Chevy” campaign. It’s dangerous ground for Chevy to tread at a time in which the US is more politically divided than since the Civil War, if, for nothing else, than it limits the brand’s marketing appeal to specific audiences.

“You’d be surprised how much it takes to penetrate people’s psyche and have them thinking about you,” director of Chevrolet marketing Majoros admitted.

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EV Commercials & Football’s Magnetic Appeal

The first of the new Chevy EV commercials aired during the 1 pm NFL game on FOX on Sunday, September 18. That rivalry set the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to battle the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.

At age 45, Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady has had a distinguished, 5-time MVP football career. Directing traffic on the field, Brady on Sunday afternoon picked apart the Saints’ opposition, and they were tough and physical, in-your-face competitors. Short Julio Jones and Chris Godwin, Brady delivered strikes in unexpected places: long on 3rd downs, medium efficiency, short motion. He negotiated the fraught history between the teams and a fresh approach by his new offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich. Sure, Brady occasionally fumbled or mis-threw, but he kept finding unexpected options and pushed on with the help of a tenacious defense for the win.

In other words, Brady’s performance was a metaphor for Chevy’s self-image as it takes to the EV marketplace — off the mark occasionally, finding short gains, quick hitting, reluctantly accepting disappointing setbacks.

Wait! You don’t see the thematic comparison between one of the oldest players ever to stay in the game and the legacy Chevy brand?

GM has been working diligently with dealers to support the transition to EVs, providing the necessary chargers, tools, and training to get their people up and running. Up until recently, GM’s approach to electrification with transportation has been a game of holding back, surveying the opposition, strategizing for success. Slow off the line, Chevy has suddenly transformed its offensive line and is hoping to establish a strong growth play by being highly differentiated in every category it enters.

Football, it can be argued, has more relevance to the business world than any other sport. In football, teams focus on the fundamentals, size people up, seek the contact. They have to operate under any conditions and be ready to make adjustments. Doesn’t this sound an awful lot like the dilemma GM and other legacy automakers find themselves? After the years of steady sales and plentiful profits, haven’t legacy carmakers experienced a rapid unplanned disassembly of all they knew to be true?

Final Thoughts

As the Chevy marketing campaign continues, it will include a cross section of social media influencers and personalities such as actor Terrence J and professional skateboarder Leo Baker to — hopefully — argue how all people from all walks of life will have EV choices to fit their needs.

Right now, GM is looking to football to capture a broad consumer base and bring all of its nearly 3,000 US dealerships on board to sell EVs. For the Equinox, Chevy is banking on a 300-mile full charge as the pivot point for consumer appeal and for football’s fascination with commercials to open a door so EV cynics might take a second look.

I taught sports and popular culture for a long time. If you’ve never really thought about football as an analogy for American culture, take a look at this iconic comedy skit from George Carlin. The brilliant orator captured the essence of the place “where America gathers” and teaches us a little bit about ourselves in the telling.

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