Super Bowl ads—as we all know—can be just as big a draw for viewers as the football game itself. While many of this year’s ads were far less political than those featured last year, one in particular drew outrage from the viewers.
Automaker Dodge used voiceover from a speech about service by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to advertise Ram trucks—a tactic that many saw as crass. Even the King Center, which continues to share the King’s teachings, sought to distance itself from the advertisement, tweeting that the center nor its CEO, King’s daughter Bernice, sign off on how the civil rights leader’s “words or imagery” are used for commercial purposes.
Rather, a separate body controls King’s intellectual property, including his speeches and image. That company, Intellectual Properties Management Inc., is run by King’s son Dexter. The managing director of the group told NBC in a statement early Monday that it “found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built to Serve’ Super Bowl program.”
For its part, Dodge parent Fiat Chrysler Automobiles U.S. said in a statement that it “worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals, and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way.”
Although King’s estate defended the move, many Super Bowl viewers were uncomfortable with Dodge Ram using excerpts of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, which explicitly discourages people from succumbing to the powers of advertising, to sell automobiles, especially during Black History Month