The Story Behind Avocados From Mexico’s Surprise Super Bowl Hit

Produce group generated big buzz and may return next year

If Nationwide was the somber buzzkill of this year's Super Bowl, Avocados From Mexico was the life of the party, earning more than a billion media impressions along the way.

The association's quirky ad in the first quarter comically explained the origin of Mexican avocados: as a first-round pick in a draft event for countries to select their indigenous plants and animals. Hosted by a bearded, God-like figure, the "First Draft Ever" also featured commentary from ex-NFL stars Jerry Rice and Doug Flutie.

Two versions of the ad, from agency GSD&M, were released on Jan. 30 (two days before the game) and have since generated more than 1 million views on YouTube. During the Super Bowl, the avocado association started unveiling a series of seven more online videos (see below) that laid out Mexico's subsequent draft picks.

Collectively, those executions, a teaser ad and corresponding media coverage amassed some 1.1 billion media impressions, helping the brand achieve the second most social buzz out of the game, after Procter & Gamble's Always (and its "Like a Girl" ad from Leo Burnett), according to Adobe Social. Views of all of the videos across YouTube, Facebook and iAD totaled 1.48 million, according to Ketchum, the public relations agency for Avocados From Mexico.

Not bad for a concept that started with God knocking over a table of the world, with avocados landing on Mexico.

That was the initial idea that GSD&M expanded into a prehistoric NFL-style draft, which the Austin, Texas-based agency pitched to win the Super Bowl project in October, according to chief creative officer Jay Russell.

"God was in his study  … and there was a table of the world behind him. He kind of bumped into it, and avocados fell on Mexico," Russell said.

"So, it was this very surreal, weird idea that ended up with, 'That doesn't make any sense, but take God out of it and how do you put that idea into a football context?' 'Well, nobody has really done anything with the draft.' And we knew that avocados are indigenous to Mexico. So, they were just there."

A month later, Rice and Flutie signed on, and in early December, the agency shot the ad on a sound stage in Hollywood.

The two-day shoot was tricky, given the presence of live creatures like a lion, fox, armadillo and zebra. Zebras, for example, are sensitive to noise, so the agency had to keep the set relatively quiet when filming them, said Alvaro Luque, president of Avocados From Mexico.

Matt Dilmore of Biscuit Filmworks was the director, chosen for the whimsical tone he suggested for the script, according to Russell. "He gave it its own personality," Russell said.

Given the success of the first appearance of a fruit on the Super Bowl, the avocado growers' association is considering a return next year. And while this year's price tag was high—$4.5 million for airtime during the game and another $4.5 million across other NBCU programming—the association simply shifted dollars it would have otherwise spent in the course of its fiscal year, Luque said. The group typically spends about $15 million in media annually, according to Kantar Media.

Havas Media bought Avocados From Mexico's Super Bowl time early—way back in March 2014, setting the stage for the ad search, which began in June and involved concept testing. While GSD&M landed the plum assignment, Arnold remains the brand's lead creative agency, and Luque expressed satisfaction with the work of both shops. Arnold has worked for the growers since 2013.

Beyond the massive media impressions, Luque credits buzz in the run-up to the Super Bowl appearance for driving weekly sales of Mexican avocados in the U.S. beyond the threshold of 50 million pounds for the first time. And that happened twice in the two weeks leading to the Feb. 1 game. As a result, Mexican growers expect their U.S. market share to grow from 67 percent at the end of the last fiscal year (June 30, 2014) to more than 70 percent at the beginning of the next fiscal year, on July 1, Luque said. The next biggest share belongs to California growers, at around 20 percent.

Ultimately the board of directors for Avocados From Mexico will decide whether to return to the Big Game. In Luque's mind, though, "We need to be there. I think that the Super Bowl suits us, and this is a great part of the year to advertise and reinforce our brand."

Below, you can check out the seven follow-up First Draft Ever videos, starring "Not Doug Flutie" and "Not Jerry Rice."