Political News

Biden campaign blitzes pricey football games with series of new ads

Joe Biden's presidential campaign will air a series of ads during a slate of National Football League games over the next week, looking to use their sizable campaign war chest to air spots on some of the most popular real estate in television.

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Dan Merica
CNN — Joe Biden's presidential campaign will air a series of ads during a slate of National Football League games over the next week, looking to use their sizable campaign war chest to air spots on some of the most popular real estate in television.

The ads -- which will air during five upcoming NFL games -- represent the heart of Biden's argument against President Donald Trump: An intense focus on how the President has mismanaged the ongoing coronavirus, the importance of voting in November and questioning Trump's character.

The Biden campaign announced a record-breaking $383 million fundraising haul in September, a number that gave the campaign $432 million in the bank. That money has allowed the campaign to spend on some of the nation's most expensive ad time. The Biden campaign declined to say how much these ads cost but reports have found one 30-second spot during an NFL game cost around $419,000 in 2019, according to AdAge.

"Our paid media program definitely places a premium on these high impact, his viewership events," said Jordan Finkelstein, paid media chief of staff for the Biden campaign. "We think it's just a good opportunity to connect with viewers when they're not just putting the TV on to have something on, they are specifically tuned in to watch a football game."

Finkelstein said that the campaign intentionally looked for games with teams in swing states and tailored the ads to "who we think is watching to maximize our impact and try to connect with voters and viewers the best we can."

Two of the ads will air during the in-conference matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, two teams from battleground states in the presidential race.

One ad -- titled "The Blind Pig" -- will air nationally on CBS and tell the story of Joe Malcoun and his Ann Arbor, Michigan, bar and music venue, a once bustling establishment that has been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. The minute-long ad features "Sabotage" by The Beastie Boys.

"For 50 years, the Blind Pig has been open and crowded. But right now it is an empty room," says Malcoun, the co-owner of the bar. "This is the reality of Trump's Covid response. We don't know how much longer we can survive not having any revenue."

Biden has made Trump's handling of the coronavirus central to his campaign against the President. Bars and small music venues have been some of the most dramatically impacted establishments because of social distancing guidance during the pandemic.

Malcoun adds: "A lot of restaurants and bars that have been mainstays for years will not make it through this. This is Donald Trump's economy. There is no plan and you don't know how to go forward. It makes me so angry. My only hope for my family and for this business and my community is that Joe Biden wins this election."

A campaign aide told CNN it was the first time the Beastie Boys have allowed one of their songs to be used in a campaign ad.

The Biden campaign will also air a 30-second ad -- titled "Flex Your Power" -- specifically in Pittsburgh during the Steelers game. The ad features former Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier, a one-time Pro Bowler who was involved in a hit in 2017 that left him unable to move his legs and forced to learn to walk again.

"In 2016, I didn't vote. I didn't think it mattered," Shazier says. "I won't make that mistake again."

With images from his career-ending hit on screen, Shazier continues: "One thing I learned in life, you have to make the most of every opportunity you get. Right now, you have the opportunity to make positive change in your community -- by voting. ... You want change? Go vote. Use your power."

The Biden campaign will also air a 30-second spot nationally when the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers play during NBC's Sunday Night Football. The ad, titled "Worth Fighting For," tells the story of a retired US Army Ranger named Matt who returned from service with PTSD.

"When I first got back, I am looking for snipers, I am looking for IEDs," says Matt, who is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, another swing state. "My friends, they are not suckers."

The ad refers to an explosive report from The Atlantic magazine that alleged Trump has called wounded veterans and those killed in battle "suckers" and "losers." Trump has denied the report, but the Biden campaign has seized on it.

And the final ad will air during ESPN's Monday Night Football game between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. The ad features Tristen Vance, a linebacker from Northern Arizona University who aspires to play professionally but whose season was canceled due to the coronavirus.

"I have been working my whole life towards a dream to play professionally. Missing this season puts those dreams in jeopardy," Vance says in the ad. "Trump's failure of leadership is why we can't play right now. I don't blame President Trump for the virus, but I 100% blame him for the response to the virus."

The Big Sky conference, which includes the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks, postponed their football season earlier this year because of the coronavirus.

These ads are far from the first time the Biden campaign has aired spots during high-profile television moments. The campaign has previously aired ads during the Billboard Music Awards, the Emmy and MTV Video Music Awards, as well as during the Major League Baseball playoffs.

The Biden campaign will also target swing states when they air previously released ads over the next week during the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meeting on Sunday, as well as the Thursday Night Football game between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

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