When an ad for Cetaphil lotion was released online just days before the Super Bowl, it received rave reviews for a narrative that reminded parents, football fans and Taylor Swift followers of a familiar story.
In the commercial, a father tries unsuccessfully to interest his teenage daughter, who is distracted by something on her phone, in a soccer game. She goes to her bedroom to complete her skincare routine – she uses Cetaphil on her face. She then goes downstairs to see her father watching a football game while wearing a white jersey with the number 89 on it. The announcer can be heard saying, “Well guys, there she is, the game’s most famous fan,” drawing a smile from the daughter.
The father, sensing an opportunity, later comes to her room with a red number 13 jersey for her and jokingly applies cream to his face before begging her to come and watch the game. She goes downstairs, puts her phone on the coffee table and makes herself comfortable next to her father. The ad ends with them wearing their jerseys on the couch and laughing. An on-screen message reads: “This season, fathers and daughters have found a new way to connect.”
Although it doesn’t directly mention Taylor Swift, the ad is a nod to how the music superstar’s relationship with Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce is said to have led to more fathers and daughters watching NFL games together this season . The No. 13 and No. 89 jerseys were implicit nods to Ms. Swift’s “lucky number” 13 and her (and Mr. Kelce’s) year of birth, 1989. And the father in the ad wore friendship bracelets, as did many of Ms. Swift’s fans.
Social media users responded positively to the ad and made connections to their own lives. One TikTok user who posted the ad said it “moves me to tears.” On
But on Friday evening, Sharon Mbabazi, a woman with a popular TikTok account, said the company stole the idea for the ad from her. On her social media accounts, she shared a TikTok post from September in which she is putting on makeup when her stepfather comes in and tells her about Mr. Kelce’s rise in Instagram followers, jersey sales and popularity since his relationship with Ms. Swift went public became .
The post, captioned “My stepdad has been updating me on Taylor and Travis every day since Sunday,” had 2.7 million views as of Sunday afternoon. (It’s one of several posts she’s posted about her, football, and her stepfather.) He accompanies Ms. Mbabazi as he applies lotion to his face while simultaneously updating him on Kansas City’s performance or simply letting her know when the Chiefs played – and to prepare to watch the game together. Ms Mbabazi did not respond to a request for comment.
In a statement on Sunday, Cetaphil said the ad was “an original creation” that was “inspired by a unique trend this year where numerous young women and girls have bonded with their fathers through football and about it on their social channels.” The company, after speaking to Ms Mbabazi, added that it “works with Sharon and other influencers like her”, but without clarifying what that means.
Other health and beauty companies that often focus on women in their marketing, perhaps hoping to capitalize on interest in Ms. Swift, advertised during Sunday night’s Super Bowl, including ELF Cosmetics, NYX Makeup and Dove. (The Cetaphil commercial was not scheduled to air nationally during the game.)
Mary Scott, a professor of strategic communications at Montclair State University, said Super Bowl advertising is most effective when it captures a feeling or moment that the entire country has recently experienced. Even more than the Swift effect, Ms. Scott said, many parents could identify with the portrayal of phones as a barrier between parents and their children.
She compared the Cetaphil commercial to those from the 2021 Super Bowl, which alluded to Americans’ shared experiences with the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You entered a different reality,” Ms. Scott said, referring to the Cetaphil ad. “They just went deeper.”