New York Life’s First Super Bowl Spot in 30 Years Is All About ‘Love Through Action’

Insurance company is using the ad to kick off its 175th anniversary

Elderly couple in twin beds holding hands
New York Life's spot kicks off its 175th anniversary campaign.
New York Life Insurance Company

In the 1970s and ’80s, New York Life was a staple Super Bowl advertiser. The life insurance company, which was founded in 1845, advertised in the Big Game from 1970 to 1976, again in 1978, and then from 1987 to 1990.

But since then, the brand has remained on the sidelines—until now. New York Life is back in the Big Game for the first time in 30 years to mark an important milestone for the company: 175 years in business.

“Our 175th anniversary really provides a once in a generation opportunity to make a powerful statement about our brand and our role in people’s lives,” Kari Axberg, New York Life’s vp of brand marketing, told Adweek. “What better stage than the Super Bowl to showcase that message and connect with millions of people at the same time?”

The spot, with creative from New York Life’s agency of record Anomaly, mentions the four Greek words for love: philia (love between friends), storge (familial love), eros (romantic love) and agape (love as an action). New York Life’s spot focuses on the last of these words with scenes of people helping sick family members, rushing out the door in the morning, and celebrating milestones like weddings and graduations.

In a voiceover, Avengers actress Tessa Thompson, accompanied by a custom score from composer Max Richter, says, “For 175 years, we’ve been helping people act on their love. So they can look back, or look ahead, and say, ‘We got it right.'”

“We realized that people come to us to create better futures for themselves, their family members and those that they love,” Axberg said. “Love is really the cornerstone of all of our relationships that we have.”

Considering New York Life’s ad is a minute long, it means the brand made a significant investment in the Super Bowl this year (30-second spots are going for over $5.6 million).

“Sixty seconds was the amount of time we thought was right to explore the different types of love,” Axberg said. “We wanted to make sure that we were showcasing that there was a difference here, and that these choices that people make are really a step above the rest. Making choices to protect your family and move them forward is sometimes a challenge, and we wanted to celebrate those people.”

The ad features actors with real ties to one another, including a real set of brothers, Axberg said. The intent was to create the most “emotionally resonant” spot the brand could for its Super Bowl ad.

“In the Super Bowl, there’s a lot of different techniques that advertisers can take,” she said. “We wanted to make sure that we were emotionally connecting with consumers because it relates most closely to what we do. In the elements of the ad we selected, we really tried to showcase that.”

The spot kicks off a campaign that will run throughout 2020 in honor of New York Life’s 175th anniversary. There will also be a digital component as well as shorter ads to run after the game.

New York Life’s Super Bowl spot will air between the first and second quarters.

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 live coverage of the commercials anywhere.

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