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If Leo Schreven, founder of All Power Ministry, succeeds, his Sabbath-themed television ad being prepared for Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 will be the first commercial in Super Bowl history to promote a distinctly sectarian message during the game. But in the case of this ad, the if is a very big one.
For Schreven, whose corporate roots helped him create an outreach media juggernaut, the $3 million spot makes good fiscal sense. He estimates that as a result of the advertisement, some 100 million viewers will learn about his website, GoAllPower.com, not to mention the presumed extended audience that will discuss the ad at the office and on the Web following the Super Bowl. Schreven projects that 3.1 million individuals (a figure he considers conservative) will be baptized as a result of seeing the ad and visiting the website. This project is part of a larger effort to reach 5 billion people in five years, according to the website.
The proposed ad featuring a "Jesus" who tells a room full of Super Bowl viewers, "The 7th day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God," and "Sunday is for football," will be funded through donations.
However, even if the funds come in, the commercial will be a hard sell. Networks that provide Super Bowl coverage appear wary of ads that promote religious ideology. FOX Sports, who will provide coverage of today's Super Bowl XLV, rejected an ad in which a football player wrote "John 3:16" in white letters over his eye paint. The ad ended with a website, "LookUp316.Com," splashed across the screen. Watch ad here.
Explaining its rejection of the ad, Fox issued a statement saying, "As a matter of company policy, Fox Broadcasting Company does not accept advertising from religious organizations for the purpose of advancing particular beliefs or practices"
The "Look Up 316" ad is an apparent reference to Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who during his college football days created controversy by writing Bible texts on his eye black, including John 3:16. Many see Tebow's actions as a catalyst for a rule banning writing on eye paint in college football. The NFL had also adopted a similar rule prior to the Broncos drafting Tebow. The quarterback found himself at the center of a controversy again last year when he filmed a Super Bowl ad for Focus on the Family. In the first cut of the ad, Tebow's mother was to speak out against abortion, noting that doctors recommended aborting her son because of complications with the pregnancy. The final version of the commercial, which aired during Super Bowl XLIV (approved by CBS, who provided last year's television coverage), significantly toned down the rhetoric, omitting the abortion account. Instead, the ad invited viewers to visit Focus on the Family's website for the rest of the story.
Given the likelihood that an attempt to promote Sabbath observance to Super Bowl viewers will be quickly rejected, a possible scenario is that the ad will be submitted with inevitable rejection in mind in order to generate media coverage, as was the case for the 316 spot. This would generate buzz without the hefty price tag, but it would mean far fewer viewers would ultimately see the ad. Another scenario, perhaps less likely, is that the ad will be softened as was the Tebow/Focus on the Family ad. This would mean maximum viewership, but less punch.
Speaking to Spectrum, Schreven said that his media team has found a way to buy all the top search engine ads following the Super Bowl if the commercial does not cross the goal line. This would ensure a high level of visibility for the ad online if television exposure should prove impossible.
Whether or not we see the Sabbath Super Bowl commercial on NBC next year, we can expect to see a new era of market-based outreach that moves beyond the Adventist satellite TV model of message marketing. The line between evangelism and advertising grows ever thinner.
Leo Schreven speaks with Spectrum about the Super Bowl ad here: