Culture Spotlight: Super Bowl XLIX – Ability and Social/Emotional Awareness

On Sunday night, many Americans surrounded their TVs with friends, families, and food – with a shared purpose of either football or commercials. (Perhaps a portion of viewers were interested in both.) Regardless of where you stood on the game, there were some big winners in the commercials, which depicted a broad range of abilities and a spectrum of social/emotional awareness.

We’ll start with ability…

Reebok – Freak Show – Be More Human

Reebok Screenshot credit: Reebok,

 Reebok took us through some dedicated athletes’ sacrifices and routines. For a moment, they featured a person who uses a wheel chair. Some people may be taken aback by the title “freak show.” However, the overall message was that with dedication, we all can be stronger leaders, parents, or humans capable of anything. With this dedication, we seek to honor our bodies and sharpen our minds with a goal to #BeMoreHuman.

The Bold New Camry – How Great I Am: Amy Purdy


Screenshot Credit: Toyota USA,

 This entire commercial was about the amazing athlete, dancer, and model Amy Purdy. Her drive to overcome the barriers life has given is inspirational to many people. Camry uses Amy’s story to highlight the “how great I am” campaign and encourage people to make #OneBoldChoice.

This message was fantastic because some of the barriers Amy has had to face are other people telling her what she can and cannot do because of her differences. This commercial should serve as a clear response to those people who tried to place limits on her.

McDonald’s: Super Bowl XLIX Pay With Lovin’


Screenshot Credit: McDonalds,

 McDonald’s has a history of warming our hearts in advertising. In this commercial, they had McDonald’s customers pay for their meals in love. The payments would be different expressions of love: joyful dancing, calling their mom to say, “I love you”, or giving family hugs. One of the families featured had a daughter who had Down syndrome.

Microsoft: Braylon O’Neill


Screenshot Credit: Microsoft,

Microsoft told the story of how getting prosthetics empowered Braylon. They ask, “What is it we can do that is unique? That is impactful?” They announce, “We are going to empower every individual and every organization to do more and achieve more.” In that light, Microsoft and KIT have some similar goals.

Now lets look at Social Emotional Experiences…

Dads, Dads, Dads, Dads

We will skip the dialogue on what kind of Dads drive what kind of cars… you can find that elsewhere on the Internet. The Super Bowl is seen as a male first audience for advertising. It was great to see the Super Bowl commercials challenge what fatherhood meant and, for the most part, attempt to inspire people to be better dads.

Dove Men+Care – #RealStrength


Screenshot Credit: DoveMenCareUS,

 Dove’s Men + Care’s ad was a fantastic look at the social/emotional side of fatherhood that is not often a common topic of manhood. The goal of the ad is to highlight that the caring side of men is #RealStrength. This is a message that does not often make it to children. Thank you, Dove, for beginning that conversation.

Nationwide: Invisible Mindy Kaling


Screenshot credit: Nationwide Insurance,

Mindy Kaling has made a career out of flipping her quirks into strengths. In this clip, Mindy discusses the power of her perceived invisibility. Nationwide wanted to jump on this spirit and show they value you, however quirky you are.

Coca-Cola – “Big Game” #MakeItHappy

Coca Cola

Screenshot Credit: Coca-Cola,

 Cyber bullying is not a joke. Coca-Cola painted a picture of a world with less hate and more love. We think that it will take more than an ice cold Coke to end cyber bullying, but it may be a great first step!

Always – #LikeAGirl


Screenshot Credit: Always,

Always definitely scored a touchdown with their #likeagirl commercial! It takes a very intentional caregiver to avoid putting children in a stereotypical box. “Like a girl” should never be an insult, but we live in a world where it has become one. As Always points out, for girls especially, self esteem often plummets during puberty. We should all want to change that. Like Always, we think “like a girl” means doing amazing things. Any message that supports removing stereotypical boxes, we can totally stand behind.

What does all this screen time mean?

Many people are critical of advertisers who use ability topics to illicit emotions in advertising, a criticism that is justified. However, we believe that anytime children can see an authentic version of themselves highlighted on TV, it is a good thing. We also believe that anytime a person receives a message that challenges their assumptions on ability or limitations, it has powerful potential. Many of the social deficits we face are from poorly developed social and emotional skills. It was inspiring to see topics like being a more caring parent, individuality, compassion, and personal strength highlighted. We are hopeful this will set a tone for future inclusive commercials, particularly on the most discussed advertising night of the year!

–Written by Jeremy Crisp, KIT Staff

Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at

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