Erin Andrews’ choices for wardrobe, hair and makeup for a Fox Sports Super Bowl broadcast have never been so important.

The veteran sportscaster had to decide on all those things last month — and her verdicts were of pivotal importance to the National Football League as it quietly crafted a two-minute commercial that, at least at first glance, looks like just another part of the Big Game. After wrapping a broadcast of the Apple Music halftime show with Rihanna, Fox appeared to launch an interview segment between Andrews and Diana Flores, the team quarterback of Mexico Women’s National Flag Football team.

It was anything but. The network — and the NFL — were really making an extra effort to capture viewers’ attention on a night when hundreds of others are trying to do the same.

During the interview, Andrews tells Flores, “You are so elusive. Is there anybody that can pull your flags?” Just as the athlete is about to answer, Andrews tries to yank them herself and starts to chase the surprised young woman. As the action ramps up, viewers hear Joan Jett and the Blackhearts covering the frantic song “Real Wild Child” and the audience follows as Flores is tracked by football players like Sauce Gardner and Davante Adams, and the digital influencer Mr. Beast. Even tennis great Billie Jean King makes an appearance. Meanwhile, Flores careens through hallways, down a giant escalator and even off a roof!

“We wanted to create a broadcast trainwreck,” says Bryan Buckley, the director who is known for his work on dozens of Super Bowl commercials over the years. Viewers were bound to sense that
“something is off,” he says, and prompted to lean in and wonder, “Oh my God, what just happened?”

Flag football is a cause celebre at the NFL, which has been investing in no-contact flag football leagues across the country in a bid to get younger people interested in the sport — and its tackle-fueled counterpart. “If you want to get a young person involved with the game, get them to play the game,” says Tim Ellis, the NFL’s chief marketing officer. Focusing the ad on a Spanish-speaking, female player was no accident. The league sees young people, women and people of Latin and Spanish heritage as consumer segments that can get more interested in the sport, and the Super Bowl presents a unique opportunity, says Ellis, to get a message in front of casual fans or people who typically don’t watch football.

The practice of getting a Super Bowl commercial to look like just another part of the game isn’t a new one. Fox collaborated with Procter & Gamble’s Tide in 2017, allowing commentator Terry Bradshaw to appear on screen with a small stain on his shirt that would end up playing a paramount role in a Super Bowl ad that had the gridiron great run off set and the game field to get his clothes washed. NBC allowed General Motors to pull off a clever fake-out in 2015 before its airing of Super Bowl XLIX that made viewers think their feeds of the pre-game festivities were interrupted. The ad was meant to highlight the Wi-Fi capabilities of the Chevrolet Colorado.

For the Andrews interview to seem like a part of the action, everything had to look as if it were taking place in real time. The NFL was able to get a look at Fox’s Super Bowl graphics package, and used the same cameras Fox would be using at the event. Meanwhile, Andrews had to pick out the clothes, makeup and hairstyle she planned to use on Game Day — several weeks ahead of kickoff. “The mike she was holding was the real mike” Andrews was supposed to hold in the game, says Marissa Solis, the NFL’s senior vice president of global brand and consumer marketing.

“We had to start with the Interivew,” says Solis. Viewers would believe Andrews might hold such a conversation, particularly after the NFL replaced its Pro Bowl with a series of contests that included flag football. “It’s very believable she would be on the sidelines.”

To push viewers further, however, Buckley quickly worked to create what he called “the feel of chaos.” As Flores dashes away, viewers may think they are seeing her through Andrews’ point of view, thanks to camera angles. And then, within seconds, Andrews appears to tumble to the ground before Flores runs to other parts of the stadium. “Put you into the space — that was the marching order,” says Buckley.

The director says this commercial Is the most difficult Super Bowl commercial he’s ever had to shoot. The storyboard for the ad required more than 1,000 different frames, and the shoot “required so many layers and so many people being involved.” Now that both Terry Bradshaw and Erin Andrews have lent a hand in making a Super Bowl ad look like it was part of the action, perhaps the next big challenge will be getting Tom Brady to participate after he starts working with Fox in the fall of 2024.