Two weeks before Super Bowl LIV, Planters was the talk of ad land. The Kraft Heinz brand had just released a buzz-generating video showing Mr. Peanut’s death in a fiery car wreck while word spread that it planned to air a funeral for its 104-year-old mascot during the game. Then, it all came crashing down.
Following the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant, one of his daughters and seven others, brands scrambled to scrub their Super Bowl marketing of anything that could be considered insensitive, cutting references to everything from basketball to helicopters. But perhaps no Big Game advertiser had more work to do than Planters.
The brand quickly pumped the brakes on all paid media spending for its campaign. Its “Road Trip” ad that shows Mr. Peanut’s death, which was originally slated to air during the pre-game show, was scrapped entirely, while Planters’ in-game funeral commercial was moved up from the third quarter to the second (timing that placed it squarely before a planned halftime tribute to Bryant).
What eventually aired during the Big Game was a 30-second spot from VaynerMedia titled “Tribute.” It begins with Mr. Peanut’s graveside funeral that’s well attended by various mascots, but mid-eulogy, a tear shed by a mourning Kool-Aid Man falls to the ground and spurs the growth of a miraculous bush— and out pops “Baby Nut.” After a few baby noises, and then dolphin noises, the infantile peanut speaks: “Just kidding, I’m back.”
The ad was Planters’ first Super Bowl appearance in 11 years, but its marketing headache didn’t end after the game. Two days later, Twitter suspended three meme accounts created by Planters to spread Baby Nut’s message, though the brand called the impact of the decision “miniscule.”
QUARTER AIRED: Q2
SUPER BOWL: LIV