Toyota is leaning into female empowerment with a Super Bowl ad that features Antoinette "Toni" Harris. She is the first female football player who does not play a specialist position like kicker to be offered football college scholarships.
The ad, released today, is from Burrell Communications and directed by Joe Pytka, who has directed more than 80 Super Bowl commercials. The narrator is Jim Nantz, who will call Sunday's game for CBS.
The 60-second ad shows draws a comparison between Harris and its new RAV4. "Both of them are changing the game," said Ed Laukes, group VP of Toyota division marketing at Toyota North America, at an event unveiling the new spot in New York on Tuesday.
The commercial shows Harris loading football gear into the back of a Toyota RAV4 and then doing some intense training, while Nantz talks about how she defied the odds.
Harris, 22, is a sophomore defensive back at East Los Angeles College. She has been offered scholarships to continue her playing career at several colleges, including Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas, according to media reports.
While Pytka has directed dozens of Super Bowl spots, he says telling Harris' story was different. Unlike established athletes, like Michael Jordan, Serena Williams or Tiger Woods, who already have their own followings and reputation in sports, Harris is a newcomer.
"This is the most unique story I have ever heard in sports," Pytka said at Tuesday's event. "It's a perfect time in our society when women are becoming empowered as equal, as more than equal." Burrell got support from Saatchi & Saatchi and Zenith Media on the ad.
The automaker uses an model called Total Toyota that was unveiled four years ago and includes multicultural marketing. "Different agencies working together--a lot of people talk about it but Toyota and T-squared, we actually do it," says Lewis Williams, chief creative officer at Burrell.
Harris says that she hopes the commercial will raise her profile for potential coaches and help further her goal of joining the National Football League. Toyota plans to film her with her family watching the game on Sunday.
In 2018 Toyota ran three ads in the game, its biggest Super Bowl push ever. In one unity-focused 60-second spot, an imam, a monk, a priest and a rabbi all get together in a Toyota Tundra to attend a football game.