Toyota accept NFL request to edit commercial over concussion portrayal
The National Football League (NFL) is paranoid about its image. Football is a collision sport and you don’t really need a doctor to tell you that banging your head into things isn’t good for you. Despite the NFL’s best efforts, there is no way they can eliminate
hits to the head in football.
What they can do is minimise the risk of serious and long-term injuries from helmet to helmet hits, which requires a lot of research. Car maker Toyota has done its share of research into protecting passengers from sustaining serious head injuries in road
accidents. Recently the company shared their findings with researchers from Wake Forest University, in order to better understand football concussions with helmet makers. Toyota developed software that it calls T.H.U.M.S (Total Human Model for Safety), which
simulates injuries that have been difficult to analyse using traditional crash test dummies.
The obvious next step would be to use that information to generate good will for Toyota in the NFL next season.
Toyota unveiled an advertisement in November which featured a football mom (driving a Toyota, obviously) worried about the safety of her son who plays football. The advertisement featured two football players crashing head on into each other (in slow motion)
along with crashing sounds. The football mom then says that she feels safer about her son playing football.
The NFL however, was not pleased. Whatever the reality might be, the NFL wants to paint a rosy picture of the sport. The league threatened that unless Toyota edited around 30 seconds of the commercial, they wouldn’t air it during NFL games. Toyota complied
and now the advert ends with the football mom saying that she feels safer about her son playing sports (instead of football).
“The overall tone and tenor of the spot was unfair,” said Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman. The ad has been running since November. The league first noticed the ad during Monday Night Football. McCarthy added that it was unfair, in the league’s opinion,
to single out football. He said, “Concussions aren’t just a football issue.”
Yes, concussions aren’t just a football issue, but they are more of a football issue than almost every other sport. Earlier this year highly damaging research into head injuries and long-term brain damage found that the risk to NFL players was almost as
great as that to professional boxers. There are a whole lot more football players than there are boxers.
The study also said that repeated hits to the head, even those that don’t result in concussions, can cause long-term brain damage and disability. Repeated concussions are a recipe for disaster and football is rife with them. Researchers in Ohio found that
high school football players in America suffer 100,000 concussions a year. The next eight most concussion-prone sports combined result in 110,000 concussions in high school athletes.
The fact of the matter is that moms indeed have good reason to be concerned about their children’s safety while playing football.
The hit shown in the ad was perfectly legal and a routine impact between a runner and a tackler. It did not feature NFL players or any of its trademarks but the league wasn’t happy about it; particularly the crashing sounds in the background. “You wouldn’t
hear that on a football field,” the NFL spokesman said. “It’s not representing the image we want to have portrayed.”
Toyota’s ad was a part of its ‘Ideas for good’ campaign, which emphasises how technologies developed by Toyota can be used in other fields. Toyota spokeswoman Zoe Zeigler said that while the edited version would be aired in NFL games, elsewhere Toyota would
continue to air the original advert. Toyota has removed the image of helmet to helmet impact from the ad. “It is unfortunate that the NFL was not pleased with the commercial, but we are still happy to be doing this research,” Zeigler said.