Kansas City companies have poked fun at Willie Nelson’s trouble with the IRS and shown someone faking their own death to switch cellphone plans during Super Bowl commercials in previous years.
Super Bowl viewership regularly tops 100 million. For prominent Kansas City companies like H&R Block and Sprint, it has proven to be a prime chance to advertise. Here’s a look back at the ads run in past Super Bowls that have Kansas City connections.
H&R Block’s Willie Nelson commercial (2003)
In this commercial, which ran during Super Bowl XXXVII, the Kansas City-based tax preparation giant spoofed the country music star Willie Nelson’s well-documented troubles with the IRS.
In the spot, Nelson is promised “huge money” if he stars in an ad for a fictional shaving company. “It’s not about the money,” Nelson’s agent responds. “This is Willie Nelson.” After finding out that he owes the IRS $30 million, Nelson quickly agrees to the ad.
Nelson got in real-world trouble with the IRS over millions of dollars in delinquent taxes in the 1990s. He released an album called, "Who'll Buy My Memories? (The I.R.S. Tapes)" to help pay off some of the debt.
In 2004, H&R Block again featured an ad with Nelson that poked fun at the singer’s tax troubles. This time with a Willie Nelson advice doll that gave out bad tax advice.
Sprint’s crime-deterrent ad (2006)
This ad features two men trying to one-up one another by comparing their Sprint phones. After both men brag that they can check email and download music on their phone — this is 2006 after all — one guy boasts that his phone has a “crime-deterrent” feature.
He challenges his competitor to try and take his wallet. When his friend reaches for it, he shows off the “crime-deterrent” feature by hurling his cellphone in his face.
A more recent Super Bowl ad by Sprint featured an AI robot making fun of a scientist for not switching to Sprint.
Head & Shoulders ad featuring KC Weddings 2 Go (2019)
This spot aired just last year and featured Nancy Kerr, the owner of KC Weddings 2 Go. The mobile wedding service was one of three “headstrong” business owners featured in the shampoo company’s Super Bowl advertising.
In the commercial, Kerr marries couples at a funeral home, in a parking lot and at a diner. The commercial was filmed in Independence. As a result, the city honored Kerr with a proclamation making the day of the 2019 Super Bowl “Pastor Nancy Day.”
Honorable Mention: Snickers “Chefs” ad (1996)
While Snickers is based in Virginia, this classic commercial was about an endzone painter for the Chiefs who accidentally left out a key letter when painting the team’s name.
This commercial, which made “Great googly moogly” a popular catchphrase for a time, was named the Ad Age Best commercial that year.
Aviva Okeson-Haberman is the Missouri government and politics reporter at KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter: @avivaokeson.