The Super Bowl is the one sporting event that really does have something for everyone — including people who don't actually care about sports. For those people, there are hilarious and heartwarming commercials. And 2019's game is no different. Ludacris' Super Bowl commercial for Mercedes-Benz is a prime example of why so many people with zero interest in sports will happily watch a football game once a year just for the ad breaks (and, OK, sometimes the halftime show). This spot has it all — a famous rapper, a cool premise, and more '90s references than an episode of Fuller House.
It all starts innocently enough with a regular guy watching a game of golf and urging Rickie Fowler to make a seemingly impossible put. When Fowler makes the shot, the commercial's hero realizes he can make anything happen. That's when the '90s and '00s references start flowing.
First, the guy uses his powers to "make it rain" at an ATM. The slang term was popularized by rapper Fat Joe in his 2006 song "Make It Rain," according to Dictionary.com. That's not quite the '90s, but the commercial is just getting started. It's not long before Ludacris shows up on an opera stage to save the hero and his significant other from an evening of boring music.
Thanks to his 1999 song "What's Your Fantasy," Ludacris will forever be associated with the '90s. And he seems happy to bring his trademark swagger to the opera stage as he performs his 2003 hit "Stand Up." In a behind-the-scenes video from Ad Age, Merkley + Partners Group Account Director Beth Liss shared that the rapper got so into his role that he even suggested wearing his trademark sneakers to add a "little piece of him" to the commercial.
As cool as Ludacris' cameo is, it's far from the only nod to '90s nostalgia in the ad. The commercial also references Looney Tunes' Wile E. Coyote, a cartoon that more than a few millennials surely watched on Saturday mornings when they were growing up, and Lassie, the beloved pooch who got a movie reboot in 1994. The best nostalgia moment of them all comes near the very end when the guy in the commercial "frees Willy" and recreates the triumphant jump scene from the 1993 film. It's the perfect moment for the ad to end on, and one that drives home the point that Mercedes-Benz seems to be trying to appeal to a new generation of buyers.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of '90s references, just know that the creative team actually cut some out. The Ad Age BTS video revealed that at one point they hoped Batman might make an appearance, but that may have been too much throwback goodness for a single minute long spot.
Apologies to Mercedes-Benz, but the fun ad is probably more likely to make you want to marathon all of your favorite '90s movies while blasting Ludacris songs than it is to make you want to buy a car. But that's OK. When a commercial taps into this level of nostalgia is hard to focus on the main event.