Mexico's avocado producers have bought airtime in this year's Super Bowl for a message that's anything but political.
The myth-busting-themed ad uses humor and a secret society meeting of robed members to focus on the health benefits of the popular fruit. It shows a bowl of guacamole and chips and the robed leader of the secret group mentions "avocados from Mexico have good fat."
Yet it steers clear of President Donald Trump's tough trade talk aimed at Mexico, with no hint that there could be a 20 percent tax soon.
"We always stay away from political stuff," said Alvaro Luque, president of the Avocados From Mexico brand. "It's a risky game to play and at the end we don't want to lose focus. Our message has to be clean that it's all about nutrition and good times."
Under NAFTA, or the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexican-grown avocados have overtaken California avocados as the market share leader. A border tax could hurt Mexican avocado producers but end up costing American consumers too. That's because California-grown avocados are seasonal (generally February through September) while Mexico's crop is grown year-round.
One branding expert suggests the Mexican brand should have taken on the political issue perhaps using humor and may regret it later.
"Because it's avoiding the elephant in the room, it will be vulnerable," said Rob Frankel, a branding strategist in Los Angeles. "Not only are they wasting all their money but they are inviting attack."
Another industry expert disagrees.
Miro Copic, who runs a brand and marketing consulting firm BottomLine Marketing and teaches marketing at San Diego State University, suggests that zeroing in on politics actually could have been counterproductive.
"The last thing you need is to poke at the bear," said Copic. "One of the areas that potentially could get impacted is obviously agricultural imports and that is going to be an area that they don't want to highlight at this point."
Still, Copic said the tease ad the brand posted online maybe "isn't fast-enough paced" and risks "losing people along the way. The core message of the fat from avocados is healthy comes way late in the spot."
The spot — the fruit group's third-consecutive Super Bowl ad appearance — was unveiled this week with a Jon Lovitz teaser and a longer version although it will be edited down to 30 seconds come Sunday. The longer version runs more than a minute and doesn't reference the Avocados From Mexico brand until later in the ad.
"It's clear that they have run away from the fact these are avocados from Mexico," said Frankel. "This could just as well be an ad from the avocado commission of California."
Storyboards for the avocados ad were prepared over the summer well before Trump won the election. That said, the Mexican brand had the opportunity to change course since it wasn't shot until December.
It's also worth noting that sometimes political or controversial ads get rejected by the network or the National Football League. Indeed, that was the case this year with a spot from first-time advertiser 84 Lumber showing images of immigrants and a border wall. Fox rejected the lumber company's ad.
A 30-second spot for this year's Super Bowl runs about $5 million, according to Adweek.
Meantime, Luque isn't hiding from the notion that avocados of other origins might benefit on the brand's dime.
"We never discourage any other origins," he said. "At the end…it will be a win for us as well because the market is going to continue growing and we're going to be 80 percent of that growth."
Luque said the Super Bowl is the brand's "prime time" because guacamole is such a staple product of game parties. He also contends that Avocados From Mexico's ads in the previous two Super Bowls scored "great results in terms of brand awareness."
There was an avocado supply shortage last year that caused prices of the fruit to jump starting in the summer after a growers strike in Mexico. And avocado prices on average remain higher than year-ago levels.
Survey data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows the price of avocados nationally up at least 7 percent from a year ago although lower than the summer months when the strike impact caused the most shortages.
According to Loque, the supply issues are gone and he adds that in the four weeks leading up to the big game the brand imported almost 200 million pounds of avocados into the U.S.
"We have great inventories," he said. "So we're very good for the game."