Toyota is looking to redefine hybrid cars. Toni Harris, a female football player, wants to break the mold, too.
“The 2019 Rav4 HV is the vehicle that will shatter perceptions of hybrids, much like how Toni is shattering perceptions of a football player,” said Ed Laukes, group vice-president of Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “We’re excited to highlight Toni’s inspirational story during the big game and remind viewers that assumptions should always be challenged.”
The spot will air toward the end of the second quarter of the Super Bowl on 3 February.
Joe Pytka, who has more than 80 Super Bowl commercials to his name, directed the spot, which follows Harris along her football journey.
Sportscaster Jim Nantz, who narrates the commercial, says: "People have made a lot of assumptions about Toni."
"But I've never been a big fan of assumptions," Harris says back, as she looks into the camera.
"And neither have we," says Nantz.
Pytka wanted to push the emotion of Harris' story, what he called "the most unique story I have ever heard in sports".
He said: "Staying on track with her humanity and her story was the important thing," and that selling cars comes later.
"You can't really sell a car in a commercial. You make somebody feel good about the product. The parallel stories here do that. I credit Lewis [Williams] for that, because he championed the truth in her story. The car stuff was academic. It was just shooting stuff that would fit into the story in some way," Pytka told The Drum.
Lewis Williams, chief creative officer of Burrell Communications, said focus groups had a negative overall view on hybrids. After going over more than 100 creative concepts, Williams told The Drum that the team finally found a shared story in Harris and her overlooked journey on the gridiron.
"The human story and the product story was the same, and we brought those together... The number one issue with hybrids was people could not get over their assumptions. No matter how much we told them, they didn't believe us. Bringing a human story in it made it believable and relatable. When people relate to something, then they can lean in," said Williams.
Burrell Communications created and produced the spot, with additional support from Saatchi & Saatchi and Zenith Media.
Since she was a young girl, Harris had her doubters. Coaches didn't see her potential. She was kicked off of teams in little league, middle school and high school. Now, as a sophomore free safety at East Los Angeles College, Harris has received four scholarships to play the game she loves at the university level.
Her goal is to be the first woman in the NFL. While her dream is to play in the Super Bowl, she'll at least get to be the star of one the game's commercials and use the platform to share her message and prove she can more than hold her own on the field.
"This won't be the last of me," Harris said.
Click the creative works box below to watch the full ad.