Tech

Microsoft's Super Bowl ad thanks Katie Sowers, the first woman to coach in the big game

Key Points
  • Microsoft's Super Bowl ad this year will celebrate San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers, who on Sunday will become the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl.
  • The tech company tapped Sowers for a shorter spot during the NFL playoffs. 
Microsoft's "Be the One" spot with Katie Sowers.
Source: YouTube

Microsoft's Super Bowl commercial will celebrate San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant coach Katie Sowers, who on Sunday will become the first woman to coach in the big game.

The ad is titled "Be the One." Near the end of the spot, Sowers tells the camera "All it takes is one, and then it opens the door for so many." After, on-screen text reads, "Thanks Katie for being the one." Sowers is also the first openly gay person to coach in the Super Bowl.

It's an extension of an existing relationship with Sowers. Microsoft launched a 30 second ad for Surface in early January showing how Sowers uses her Surface Pro 7 in her coaching. Microsoft Surface is the "official laptop" of the NFL, and players and coaches use them on the sidelines to go over plays.

In last year's Super Bowl, Microsoft ran "We All Win," a spot for its Xbox Adaptive Controller that talked about the device helping gamers with limited mobility play with their friends. For this year's spot, Kathleen Hall, the corporate VP of brand, advertising & research at Microsoft, told CNBC the company again wanted to do something contextually relevant to the Super Bowl that wasn't your "typical macho" kind of thing.

"We like to come at it from a different angle," she said.

For it to make sense for such a massive stage at the Super Bowl, Hall said there has to be an absolute product truth. "For us, it isn't about borrowed interest -- there has to be some real tangible product reason why, and that definitely is the Surface," Hall said.

There also has to be a brand values story and a reason it makes sense in the context of the Super Bowl, she said.

"Does this stand for something we stand for as a brand and does it sort of perpetuate our values? And it absolutely does," she said. "And the other thing we look for is, is it contextually relevant, is there a reason it's right in the Super Bowl? For this one, it's pretty obvious."

Advertisers have historically had a spotty record in terms of including women in a respectful way in their Super Bowl advertising. In recent years, there has been a conscious effort from some brands to reverse that. Another spot from Olay this year will feature an all-female cast and seek to reach the women in the Super Bowl audience.

"The bar is not to be just politically correct," Hall said. Instead, she said it's important to be proactively supportive of diversity and inclusion.

Microsoft's spot, done with its ad agency Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann, was directed by Peter Berg, who was an executive producer on the TV adaptation of "Friday Night Lights" and an executive producer and director on HBO shows "The Leftovers" and "Ballers."

"He has a super intellectual yet emotional understanding of the game," Hall said of Berg.

Watch the other Super Bowl spots that have been released so far here.

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