Ask 30 different Americans how they choose to exercise their patriotism, and you will likely get 30 different responses. And you should. That array of perspectives is what makes this country, at its core, truly magnificent.
For some, that means proudly reciting a pledge. For others, perhaps it means performing peculiar spoken word while enacting a branded homage to the Backstreet Boys.
In the case of John Cena and Skyy Vodka, it means both. And that dichotomy is as odd as it is glorious-which is honestly a perfect summation of America, when you think about it.
Skyy has partnered with the WWE star for two very different ads that continue its Proudly American campaign, a celebration of the bold and inclusive aspects of the American spirit. The ads were created in partnership with creative agency VMLY&R, Paper Entertainment and communications agency BCW.
“The Pledge” takes a fairly traditional approach of expression with alternating scenes of Cena living his best life and glimpses of other Americans doing the same (including RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Star winner Trixie Mattel, who appeared in earlier outdoor and video iterations of the campaign). Throughout the montage, Cena can be heard reciting an amended version of the American pledge of allegiance, one that honors “all those who make America what it is, and what it will be.”
But it’s the second ad, “Skyy Blue,” that is the beautifully perplexing centerpiece of Cena’s “Proudly American” run. In just 22 seconds, we are gifted the sight of not one but three different John Cenas fashioned as some sort of clone-centric boy band circa 2000, complete with a gelled up, bandana-donning Cena for peak era authenticity.
The Cenas launch into a few verses of spoken word—with the help of some stellar choreography—that could oddly double as a love declaration to America or to some lucky lady (the intermittent “hey girl” ad-libbing in the back blurs that line even further).
It’s so damn strange, yet so fun. And the pair of ads work together to show the kind of range that characterizes the U.S.A.
The popular wrestler is no stranger to the value of inclusive expression. In 2016 Cena worked with the Ad Council on a passionate short film about the power of diversity, making him an easy fit for Skyy’s embracing message.
“He was really passionate about telling the story in a really positive and fun way,” explained Melanie Batchelor, vice president of marketing for Skyy parent company Campari America. “He really understood the message we were trying to tell.”
And that message is clear: what makes America special is just how different we are.
“We really wanted a campaign that would trigger our roots and [embrace] today’s young people that are exploring the values on which the country was founded. So it was really about celebrating today’s young Americans exploring the evolution of those values and what they mean to people today.”