The 2024 Super Bowl isn’t lacking for storylines and burning questions. Can Patrick Mahomes win his third ring? Will the San Francisco 49ers spoil the party for the Kansas City Chiefs? What’s the over/under on how many times Taylor Swift will be shown or referenced? What’s Lionel Messi doing in this commercial?
Well, we already know the answer to that last one: the Inter Miami star is partnering with Michelob Ultra.
After moving to MLS last summer, Messi is making his Super Bowl debut as part of his extended welcome tour in the United States, with Michelob taking advantage of the “football meets football” connection in its commercial. Because when you’ve got the biggest American football stars playing in the biggest game of the year, you can always one-up them with a more popular sport.
That being said, Messi’s not by himself to sell the American public on soccer. Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino bridges the sporting gap as a more familiar face for the American football crowd and returns Messi’s ball to him after the Inter Miami man sends it on to the retired Miami Dolphins legend’s yacht. The two men have both represented Miami teams, after all. Why Marino was chosen and not a current Dolphins star is a bit of a mystery, but probably for the best after a late-season collapse left them behind the Buffalo Bills — again.
But suddenly, the balance of the commercial has shifted a bit. There’s Marino and the Super Bowl, a connection that makes a lot of sense, and then there’s Messi, more tenuously linked. The commercial is very American football and not as much fútbol anymore. We need sort of a go-between, someone that can really tie this all together.
Jason Sudeikis. We need Jason Sudeikis.
At least, that’s how we picture this all came together in a writers’ room somewhere in the ice-cold, refreshing headquarters of Michelob. For better or worse, Sudeikis might just be the most recognizable American soccer figure there is thanks to “Ted Lasso,” and the silly parallel of a goofy American football coach taking the reins at a Premier League club completes the commercial’s triumvirate of star power. Perhaps for the best, he’s the only one that keeps his athletic ability to himself.
Seeing commercials for American companies using international soccer superstars used to be funny. There was something endearingly awkward and out-of-place about them, and maybe at one point many American soccer fans could relate to having to explain to their close relations how the person on their screen was actually 10 times more famous than Derek Jeter. Those days are gone. The vast majority of Americans today have Messi and a handful of other soccer stars in their mental Rolodex.
Maybe the funniest thing about Michelob’s Super Bowl commercial is how it actually manages to cut that awkwardness down by just letting Messi do the only thing it seems he ever really wants to do: play the game. After a brief snafu with a kicked keg, the remainder of the commercial is just him dribbling around, over and through crowds of people on a beach. At one point, Messi is approached by a dog that clearly wants to play ball with him, but Messi nutmegs the dog and runs away.
It’s an ad in keeping with other famous soccer commercials, such as the Brazil national team’s iconic kickabout in the airport in 1998 (directed by action movie legend John Woo) or Pepsi’s own “Nutmeg Royale” ad with Messi for 2022’s World Cup.
This latest production is a little bit lighter on the action compared to those commercials, but you can see the marketing lineage from which this Michelob ad hails. And with the brand as the official beer sponsor of the 2024 Copa America in the U.S., fans might be in store for more ahead of this summer’s tournament.
The best thing about the ad is that it simply lets Messi do the thing he’s best at. It doesn’t ask him to act, not really. It doesn’t request he throw himself headlong into the marketing circus so many American athletes learn and excel at. Instead, the ad puts a ball at his feet and asks him to make some magic happen.
And much like on a real soccer field, it’s difficult to fail when you give the ball to Messi and tell him to run with it.