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Tebow’s Super Bowl Ad Creates Super Buzz

CBS, already likely to score an epic Super Bowl rating given the NFL's season-long surge in viewership, has picked up new momentum: It will have a controversial TV ad this year to air during America's biggest TV show.

The 30-second spot comes from Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family. It features Tim Tebow, who quarterbacked Florida to two college football titles and won the Heisman Trophy and now becomes the rare athlete who goes anywhere near associating with a controversial issue outside sports.

Even before the ad became one of Google's 10 most-searched topics Tuesday, Tebow was publicly defending it: "Some people won't agree with it," he said Monday. "But I think they can at least respect that I stand up for what I believe."

We'll see. Tuesday, a coalition of dozens of advocacy groups called for CBS not to air the ad. Said Jehmu Greene, president of the Women's Media Center and a coalition spokeswoman: "An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event."

What exactly is in the ad? It's easy to speculate that it will involve Pam Tebow recounting how, while pregnant with Tim and getting sick in the Philippines, she ignored doctors' advice to consider an abortion. Given that already public backstory, the protest coalition's statement suggests the ad will use "one story to subtly dictate morality to the American public" and "encourages women to disregard medical advice, potentially putting their lives at risk."

Gary Schneeberger, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, which is against abortion, suggested everybody will just have to wait and see. He told the Associated Press that "there's nothing political and controversial about it. When the day arrives, and you sit down to watch the game on TV, those who oppose it will be quite surprised at what the ad is all about."

In other words, just tune in. It's already easy to see one winner here already: CBS.

Super Bowl ads always get enormous media attention before the game - such peripheral publicity is one reason ads cost as much as $2.8 million - and provide Super Bowl broadcasters insurance that viewers will stay tuned even if the game becomes a blowout. A recent Nielsen survey, based on a sample of 25,000 households, found that 51 percent of Americans say they enjoy the ads more than the game itself. Throwing something controversial into the usual ad parade of talking babies and ball-playing horses has the potential to create a stir that - dare we say it? - could produce hubbub on the scale of an infamous wardrobe malfunction but even better for the ratings since we all know it's coming.

CBS, of course, can't gloat that it's given America one more reason to tune in. While CBS declined to air a protest ad in the 2004 Super Bowl, the network said in a statement Tuesday that for "some time" it has "moderated our approach to advocacy admissions" and "most media outlets have accepted advocacy ads for some time."

Sean McManus, who oversees CBS' sports and news divisions, declined Tuesday to comment on ad policy. But, he noted that "as far as generating interest and curiosity, (Super Bowl ads) are part of the game."

Assuming CBS doesn't backtrack, Tebow's ad might pave the way for controversial spots to regularly pop up on marquee TV - giving broadcasters new side shows to generate buzz.

On tap: With an 8 1/2-hour show, the NFL Network will have set a new record for the longest Super Bowl pregame show ever. But then, what else should the league's channel be airing that day? . . . Factor this into the future of the health care debate: CBS' Face the Nation will include Jim Nantz, Phil Simms and Shannon Sharpe on Super Bowl Sunday. . . . The CBS College Sports Network's five-hour coverage of college football's national signing day will include Seantrel Henderson, USA TODAY's prep offensive player of the year, announcing his college choice. . . . In a first, NFL.com will offer live streaming video of 12 player podiums at the Feb. 2 Super Bowl Media Day. Eventually, the site should let online users somehow get at the free food.

1 Responses »

  1. Amazing that so much controversy has been generated by something no one has actually seen yet.