Raiders Running Back Josh Jacobs Talks to His Younger Self in Poignant Kia Super Bowl Ad

The carmaker again focuses its efforts on philanthropy

josh jacobs
Jacobs stars in powerful Super Bowl ad that reflects on his past. Kia
Headshot of Robert Klara

For the second year running, Kia has decided to shelve the tactics that car brands so often employ in their Super Bowl ads—celebrity endorsers, stunt drivers, adolescent-grade humor—in favor of a sober and provocative message.

Released today, Kia’s spot for the Big Game pretty much leaves aside everything you’d associate with a car and instead uses its 60 seconds to talk about youth homelessness—starting with a guy you’d never associate with it.

“Tough Never Quits,” produced by Kia’s agency of record David&Goliath, stars Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, and tells a story you won’t find on his Wikipedia page. Jacobs grew up homeless on the streets of Tulsa, Okla., raised by his father and frequently sleeping in his car.

The poignant ad, narrated by Jacobs, returns to those Tulsa streets, where Jacobs spots his younger self (portrayed by Boston Horne) running along the broken sidewalks. “Sometimes I wonder what I would tell my younger self if I ever saw him,” Jacobs intones. “I’d tell him, ‘Josh, it’s going to be hard growing up homeless. But you’ve got to believe in yourself. Be tougher than the world around you.’”

Directed by John Hillcoat (whose films include 2009’s The Road), the spot is heavy on gritty gray streets and predawn murk. The notable pop of color comes courtesy of the mustard yellow 2021 Kia Seltos SUV that Jacobs is driving. (This is still a commercial, after all.)

Given the extravagant and fatuous nature of many Super Bowl ads, Kia’s decision to take a serious direction, while not without precedent, is still a bold one. It’s also thematically consistent, given the route that Kia took last year.

For its 2019 Super Bowl spot, Kia not only tore up the playbook for spending megabucks on a celebrity endorser, but it was also overt about doing it. A young boy narrator reminded viewers how much money celebrities make to endorse brands, then asked: “What if a few of those celebrity paychecks got set aside to help un-famous people? What if this year, in some way, it was about the rest of us?”

To muscle up its ad, Kia created what it called the Great Unknowns Scholarship. Aimed at helping underprivileged young people gain access to higher education, the automaker granted $5,000 awards to 16 students “with limited resources and limitless potential.”

For 2020—and in conjunction with “Tough Never Quits”—Kia has created a new charitable initiative called Yards Against Homelessness. For every yard gained in the game, the company has pledged to donate $1,000 to Stand Up for Kids, Covenant House and Positive Tomorrows, three charities that focus on youth homelessness.

Jacobs—whose four-year contract was worth close to $12 million—is no longer homeless. Earlier this month, the 21-year-old tweeted his exuberance over buying his father a house. But no NFL salary can diminish the hard facts of Jacob’s youth, and it’s unlikely there’s a more inspiring figure for a car brand than a football star who grew up having to sleep in one.

“I can’t imagine a better purpose for a brand than to share this amazing story of Josh Jacobs and how he was able to find his way through his toughest challenge,” said David Angelo, founder and creative chairman of David&Goliath, in a statement.

Added Russell Wager, director of marketing operations at Kia Motors America: “An ongoing tenet of Kia’s Give It Everything philosophy is to give back in meaningful ways, and we at Kia both admire and identify with Josh’s tenacity and determination.”

This year marks the 11th consecutive Super Bowl in which Kia has advertised.

For all the latest Super Bowl advertising news—who’s in, who’s out, teasers, full ads and more—check out Adweek’s Super Bowl 2020 Ad Tracker. And join us on the evening of Feb. 2 for the best in-game coverage of the commercials anywhere.


Agency: David&Goliath
David Angelo: Founder & Chairman
Yumi Prentice: President
Mark Koelfgen: Executive Creative Director/Copywriter
Frauke Tiemann: Group Creative Director/Art Director
Ben Purcell: Executive Creative Director/Copywriter
John O’Hea: Group Creative Director/Art Director
Steve Clarke: Group Creative Director/Copywriter
Peter Watson: Art Director
Caleb Nyberg: Copywriter
Quinn Bokor Jr.: Art Director
Alex Lee: Copywriter
Bennett Austin: Associate Creative Director/Art Director
Nick Micale: Associate Creative Director/Copywriter
Paul Albanese: Managing Director, Broadcast Production
Curt O’Brien: Executive Producer
Justine Kleeman: Executive Digital Producer
Danielle Watchman: Senior Producer
Genevieve Shah: Digital Producer
Natalia Celis Jr.: Producer
Cara Nieto: Executive Art Producer
Natasha Royzina Director: Business Affairs
Marlon Pineda: Business Affairs Manager
Amy Santana: Associate Business Affairs Manager
Donesh Olyaie: Group Planning Director
Jasmine Spraglin: Senior Strategist
Jeff Cannata: Communications Planning Director
Natalie Gomez: Senior Communications Planner
Hailey Kim Jr.: Communications Planner
Genie Lara: Associate Director of Project Management
Maddy Murphy: Senior Project Manager
Anna Carnochan Jr.: Project Manager
Jeff Moohr: Managing Director
Aleks Rzeznik: Account Director
Nicole Pressman: Account Supervisor, National
Annelise Lorenzo: Management Supervisor, National
Sarah Masket: Management Supervisor, Digital
Gabriella Mourad: Account Executive, Digital
Britney Bencomo: Assistant Account Executive, Digital
Russ Wortman: Automotive Specialist/Kia Product Information Manager
Peter Bassett: Managing Director, Integrated Production & Technology Services
Meagan Steinkamp: Digital Designer
Kurtis Mirick: Digital Designer

Production Company: Serial Pictures
John Hillcoat: Director
Phillippe Le Sourd: DP
Violaine Etienne: Founding Partner/Executive Producer
Jennifer Gee: Head of Production
Tracy Broaddus: Producer

Editorial Company: Spinach
Jonathan Carpio: Executive Producer
Patricia Gushikuma: Producer
Cristy Torres: Producer
Conor O’Neill: Editor “Super Bowl”
Rex Lowry Asst. Editor: “Super Bowl”
Adam Bright: Editor “Sustain & Teaser”
Marshall Thompson: Assistant Editor “Sustain & Teaser”

Color: MPC
Mark Gethin: Colorist “Super Bowl”
Nate Seymour: Color Assistant “Super Bowl”
Diane Valera: Producer “Super Bowl”

Color: a52 Color
Daniel de Vue: Colorist “Sustain, Teaser”
Corey Martinez, Dylan Bursick, Aaron Flickinger: Color Assistants “Sustain, Teaser”
Jenny Bright: Producer “Sustain, Teaser”
Thatcher Peterson: Executive Producer “Sustain, Teaser”

Post: a52
Andy McKenna: Visual Effects Supervisor
Andrew Romatz: CG Supervisor
Adam Flynn, Kevin Stokes: 2D VFX Artists
Patrick Nugent Sr.: Executive Producer
Jillian Lynes: Producer

Music Company: South Music
Ann Haugen: EVP/Director of Production “Super Bowl”
Ignacio Zas: Producer “Super Bowl”

Music Company: RNDM ORDR
Guin Frehling: Executive Producer “Teaser”
Rory Doggett: Creative Director “Teaser”
Rory Doggett: Music by “Teaser”

Sound Design Company: RNDM ORDR
Guin Frehling: Executive Producer “Super Bowl, Teaser”
Rory Doggett: Creative Director “Super Bowl, Teaser”
Gus Koven: Sound Designer “Super Bowl, Teaser”
Nick Tuttle: Assistant Sound Designer “Super Bowl, Teaser”

Music Company: Barking Owl
Kelly Bayett: Creative Director “Sustain”
Barking Owl: Composer “Sustain”
KC Dossett: Producer “Sustain”

Sound Design Company: Barking Owl
Kelly Bayett: Creative Director “Sustain”
KC Dossett: Producer “Sustain”
Morgan Johnson: Sound Designer “Sustain”

Audio Post Studio: Margarita Mix
Nathan Dubin: Mixer/Engineer “Super Bowl”
Whitney Morris, Paula Arnett: Executive Producers “Super Bowl’
Brian Frank: Operations Manager “Super Bowl”

Audio Post Studio: Eleven
Jeff Payne: Mixer/Engineer “Sustain, Teaser”
Andrew Smith: Asst Mixer “Sustain, Teaser”
Melissa Elston: Executive Producer “Sustain, Teaser”
Imani Franklin: Producer “Sustain, Teaser”

Documentary Production and Editorial Company: Spinach
Steve Clarke/John O’Hea: Directors
Juan Pablo Digenio: DP/Editor
Danielle Watchman: Senior Producer
Carlie Naftolin: Producer
Jonathan Carpio: Executive Producer
Noah Smith: Assistant Camera/Sound

Documentary Color: Company3
Sean Coleman: Colorist
Matt Moran: Producer

Documentary Post: Method Studios
Aaron Neitz: Lead Flame Artist
Danielle Fowler: Junior Flame Artist
Connor Callaghan: Executive Producer
Kait Boehm: Producer

Documentary Music: Howling Music
Ryan Claus, Joshua Frerichs: Composers
Ryan Claus, David Grow: Producers

Documentary Sound Mix: Margarita Mix, Santa Monica
Jeff Levy: Mixer/Engineer
Whitney Morris, Paula Arnett: Executive Producers
Brian Frank: Operations Manager

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@UpperEastRob Robert Klara is a senior editor, brands at Adweek, where he specializes in covering the evolution and impact of brands.