NFL’s All-African Ad a Super Bowl Highlight


Born To Play


One of the most consistent brands at the Super Bowl is the brand that knows it best – the NFL itself. Every year they draw together top football stars and pull out all the stops for a spectacular commercial, usually showcasing some element of their off-pitch work. There’s almost always cutting-edge visual effects, an uplifting story and even a few jokes in the mix too. And the commercials tend to rank strongly in System1’s post-game round-up.

2024’s NFL ad is no exception. It’s a heartwarming story of a kid who loves football, and it’s promoting the first ever NFL Africa Camp in Ghana, set up to train the next generation of African-born superstars. But in other ways “Born To Play” literally broke new ground. Shot entirely on location in Accra, starring a local cast, and with a Nigerian-born director, this is one of the most proudly, joyfully African ads ever to air on US TV.

The ad is a delirious romp showing how sport can capture a child’s imagination, as football fan Kwasi races through the streets of Accra, ball in hand, playing a game with a set of imaginary NFL superstars (played, of course, by the real things). ‘Local color’ has never been so colorful, with the vibrant Accra marketplace a stunning backdrop to Kwasi’s dreams. Then disaster strikes – an interception of the canine variety sends the kid off on a sprint to recover his stolen ball, which leads him to Africa Camp and a pep talk by Super Bowl champ Osi Umenyiora, whose own training camps inspired the NFL’s initiative. The ad ends on an uplifting note – from now on, Kwasi’s teammates might not be so imaginary.

The ad scored 4.3-Stars, a high point on a night where the on-field action thrilled but the commercials rarely scaled the heights of previous years. “Born To Play” was as busy and dynamic as any ad that aired, but married the constant action to a magical story. Readers of Orlando Wood’s Look Out will know the importance of “Character, Incident, Place”: if you have a strong central character, a clear narrative to place them in, and a distinctive setting, you have a recipe for effectiveness. “Born To Play” ticks all three boxes.

It’s also a commercial with particular resonance for Black audiences. Set in Africa, with a Black lead and spotlighting a Black NFL legend, “Born To Play” is an ad that looked set to earn a Diversity Dividend. That’s what we call the effect where an ad which is already effective with a general audience performs even more strongly amongst the demographic group or community it features. And when we tested “Born To Play” with a custom Black sample of viewers, that’s exactly what we found. The ad scored an exceptional 5.4-Stars with Black viewers, making an already strong commercial even more effective.

At a Super Bowl where most of the best ads were released well in advance, audiences looked to the NFL on the night to show other brands how the game is played. And once again, that’s exactly what they did.

Create 5-star ads

The more people feel, the more they buy

The most effective ads boost sales and drive long-term growth. They do it by making people feel more - building positive associations with a recognisable brand. We predict sales and growth impacts by measuring emotion, letting you make ads that entertain for commercial gain.

Try Test Your Ad