In Part 1 of this Super Bowl ad series, we looked at GMC’s teaser commercial for its upcoming fully electric, battery-powered Hummer. Now the premier Super Bowl commercial featuring LeBron James has been broadcast and released to the public. What was added to the teaser, and how did those new elements change the meanings and messages behind promoting the Hummer EV?
During the second quarter of Super Bowl LIV, before the Kansas City Chiefs pulled away from the San Francisco 49ers to declare a 31–20 win, the 30-second commercial “GMC HUMMER EV Super Bowl LIV Ad with LeBron James” aired. Containing the original footage from the teaser, the commercial added in a new layer of metaphorical dominance: LeBron James, the small/power forward for the Los Angeles Lakers. James inherently related his approval of the Hummer EV to a new, much younger audience than had purchased its predecessor.
The 3-time NBA championship winner spoke in a behind-the-scenes video about the commercial, saying the partnership with GMC came “organically” and that GMC is a brand he’s admired for some time.
The complete commercial revisits teaser footage of a team of horses sprinting at full speed, a series of scenes where gears churn, and a motorcyclist racing at full speed. Each of these elements signifies a larger concept that GMC hopes to impart to its future Hummer audience.
- The horses represent the Hummer EV’s 1,000 “horsepower.”
- The gears constitute the 11,500 lb-ft of wheel torque that the Hummer EV will boast.
- The motorcyclist’s speed is indicative of the Hummer EV’s capacity to go 0–60 mph in 3 seconds.
But bringing LeBron into the commercial infuses a new dimension to the Hummer EV’s allure. Adding a celebrity into an ad builds brand equity through transference of name recognition. We link the Hummer EV to LeBron’s skills, which he demonstrates richly in the ad.
He charges and stuffs the hoop in “pure dominance.” He has such force that the glass backboard shatters, enveloping him in a sheet of glass shards. Is he disturbed? Not all all. Instead, he reestablishes his footing and, with light capturing the left side of his face, offers a small and knowing smile. We hear LeBron speak, a contrast to the previous periods of utter stillness.
“All electric. Zero emissions. Zero limits. Hummer EV from GMC.”
Is this the image of an environmentally friendly vehicle? Not really, but the Hummer reboot with battery power is hardly the emblem of gasoline consumption that its former self embodied. Hummer’s second attempt is part GM’s $3 billion investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck factory in Michigan, part of a deal with the United Auto Workers (UAW) late last year. The automaker is also building a plant with LG Chem Ltd. to make battery cells for electric vehicles in Ohio.
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It’s not the first time that LeBron James has pitched automotive innovation during the Super Bowl. In 2017, he pitched autonomous vehicles for Intel. The full GMC Hummer EV ad was meant to be released ahead of Super Bowl LIV, but GM held it out of respect due to the death of Kobe Bryant, as James has been overcome by his friend’s death.