February 2nd, 2015

While millions of fans tuned in to watch the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks go head to head in Super Bowl XLIX, brands took the battle off the field in a competition featuring some of the year's top creative ideas, celebrity cameos, clever copy and of course, spectacular effects. We're taking you beyond the concepts in our Super Bowl blog series featuring interviews with the creative minds responsible for several of the night's best spots.

Every fan knows the feeling and excitement of game day. NFL's “Together We Make Football”, created by HSI directing duo The Malloys, Grey and The Mill, brings together the many faces and characters that represent NFL fans around the world for this Super Bowl XLIX spot.

We asked Sam Howard to share some insight on the creation of the spot, the concept, and his point of view on Super Bowl advertising as a producer at NFL.

Take us through the creation of the spot. What does the concept and its execution convey to audiences?

Grey came to us with a few pieces this year for the Super Bowl. The general emotive nature of the concept was appealing because it allowed us to show the different slices of America and the elements that make up our fan base. We were able to span the globe with this one crucial game moment, extrapolate it from the stadium, and bring it to the rest of the world.

If you’ve ever been in a stadium, it’s the quintessential in-game moment when your team is on defense and they line up to take the snap. It’s just that unabashedly loud, impactful sound that fills the stadium. The idea of bringing that sound and that moment out into the world was just a really appealing idea.

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I think we really responded to the vignette nature of the piece. Whether it’s people banging on trashcans or celebrity integration, the point is, and you see it in the final edit, every element is given equal weight. That’s the beauty of the original idea.

I think it’s nice to make a culmination spot. We’ve done ‘thank you fan’ spots in the past. Outside of this piece, we’ve also been working with the No More organization throughout the season and for Super Bowl. But for the Super Bowl piece, I think it’s always nice to sum up that "together we make football", for which I think this does.

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Do you have a favorite scene or vignette in the spot?

I’m partial to the Navy. I think the honesty and integrity of that shot and their formation was really beautiful. They were really participatory and it was nice to take a liking to the spot being shown as one element of the nation. I thought that was a pretty inspiring shoot day and moment. And I’m also partial to the penguin scene.

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What was it like working with the Malloy Brothers?

I love the Malloys. We did two projects earlier this year–the ‘Play 60’ piece and ‘Ticket Exchange’ we did with real fans and it was a pretty hectic ten day, seven city schedule. They’re just great guys with a desire to get more coverage and go above and beyond what’s on the page, which makes it really fun to work with them. 

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How does creating an ad or campaign for the Super Bowl differ from a regular commercial? Do you tailor the creative for the mass audience, press coverage or online buzz expected from the event?

We want to be as genuine and reflective of our fan base as possible. So we start there. The importance of scale – just in terms of what you’re up against from an advertising standpoint, the importance of production scale is a bit more relevant. It’s still based in the ideal that we have when we do our in-season advertising but I think focusing on that scale is important. 

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What makes a great Super Bowl ad standout from the pack? And which past ad(s) are your favorites that achieve this? 

I think I would have a slightly different view than other people. There’s the [USA Today] Ad Meter and there’s not. Puppies are always a good bet. Maybe it’s my bias for what we do, but I really like stuff that feels like it fits in the context of the game or broadcast.

Emotionally, I like really big and loud advertising. And in the opposite end of the spectrum, an ad that takes you out of that loudness, something that is more subtle, is also appealing. I think it’s hard to play in the middle when you have such a big broadcast moment.

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What is it about the Super Bowl that so entices brands –is it solely the audience figures? Where do you think the value lies in Super Bowl advertising? 

In the modern climate the idea of combining the Super Bowl advertisement with a great deal of pre-game PR and Internet outreach is really important. I think you can do really interesting pieces. I think augmenting the Super Bowl advertising with the broad outlets we have to release before hand is important and I think that from a media value standpoint – aside from the 150 million eyeballs, it is an elevated advertising moment.

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I don’t think any program with the most viewership in the whole nation will ever not be that. So I think it’s pretty important.

I think what we benefit from is we’re very of and in the game – I as a traditionalist like the idea of the :30-second teasers leading to the :60-second in-game. We’ve been able to create a current of advertising in the game that doesn’t give everything away.  

With this content, I think it works best to not to pre-lease.

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What are your plans for the spot after the Super Bowl? Will it still air or is it event specific?

I think because we were able to cut something that embodies that emotion we’re looking to convey all season long, I think a:30 serves pretty well in our out of game media and I think it leads well into the following season. We have off season media on partner network works well and leads well into the following season.  Ideally we can use this and we haven’t done this a lot in the past but we can use a piece of the spot in partner media to keep the rally going.

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What message do you want audiences to come away with?

It’s a two-part piece. I want fans to feel the way in which impactful moments in the game, and game itself, brings them together. I also want them to recall the genuine excitement they feel as a fan of their team and a fan of the game.

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New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks?

I’m a fan of all 32 teams.

Find out more about The Mill's work on the spot here.