It is fortuitous that the Super Bowl falls on Groundhog Day. Yet it seems as though only one brand, Jeep, has taken advantage of that fact so far, with Bill Murray reprising his role as Phil Connors, the Pittsburgh weather reporter who relives the same day over and over in Punxsutawney, Pa.
The 60-second Super Bowl ad, done by Chicago-based agency Highdive and directed by Jim Jenkins of O Positive Films, reprises the classic 1993 film Groundhog Day. And while a younger generation may not necessarily know the movie, it’s an easy gag to understand. Of course, Murray is an outsized cultural icon, and the fact that the brand is using real characters from the film (Brian Doyle-Murray and Stephen Tobolowsky also appear in their original roles) makes the spot very strong.
Throughout the ad, Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe” (the song that starts each day in the film) provides the sonic backdrop. The brand released the ad at 6 a.m. as an additional nod to the time Murray’s alarm clock goes off each (same) morning.
The commercial was filmed in Woodstock, Ill., which is the same location as the film. The twist, of course, is it features the 2020 Jeep Gladiator as Connors’ getaway vehicle with the groundhog in the passenger seat, “thus significantly altering his days for the better,” the brand said in a release. It also features Jeep’s new e-bike, which will be released in the summer.
“In my wildest dreams, any advertiser’s dream, really, could you dare to believe that Bill Murray would agree to be in your Super Bowl commercial, and on top of that, ask him to relive his iconic role in Groundhog Day?” said Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer of FCA. “When we learned that Groundhog Day fell on Super Bowl Sunday for the second time in 54 years, we couldn’t help but take that chance. The stars magically aligned.”
Reprising famed films and roles can be rife with issues, mostly the fact that it can come across as forced or inauthentic. But, in this case, three of the original cast members, most notably Murray, take part, which makes the ad work well. There are several funny moments, but the standout is Murray playing Whack-a-Mole, telling his groundhog friend (who is actually named Poppy): “It’s not personal, it’s just a game.”
Murray fans are rejoicing in this seminal moment. It’s the first time, according to Francois, that the star had ever been in a national commercial (a longer version will drop Monday online). But enjoy the moment, because it’s likely not something people should expect to continue in the future.
“This is my first commercial. I’m glad I did it with [Jeep],” said Murray. “And I’m glad that this is my last commercial, as well.”