February 13, 2023
By Lynn Burkhead
On Sunday night, millions of people around the world—including members of my own family—tuned in to watch the NFL-championship matchup between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII.
For perhaps one of the few times in Super Bowl broadcasting history, there was an unmistakeable outdoor flavor to the off-the-field excitement. A Super Bowl commercial from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's featured the hunting and fishing lifestyle, sentiments on the importance of conservation, and a humongous brightly colored, and record-sized, Arctic Char. It was the second time in three years, Bass Pro Shops produced a Super Bowl commercial.
As the game began, my son Zach prepared a batch of dove poppers, my wife turned out an amazing charcuterie board, my mom brought over the best brownies in the world, and yours truly kept stirring a pot of turkey chili (a concession to my cardiologist’s wishes), and there was a lot of excitement about the final football game of the 2022-23 season with a Vince Lombardi Trophy waiting in the wings for the winner.
Over the next several hours, there was a lot of what you might expect from a Super Bowl. In addition ton the great snacking was a tremendous game, as the Kansas City Chiefs outlasted the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
The game brought a stirring rendition of the National Anthem by eight-time Grammy award winning country artist Chris Stapleton; a fighter plane flyover by seven women pilots with the U.S. Navy's tactical aircraft squadrons, as the nation celebrates 50 years of women in Naval Aviation; a teary eyed coin toss remembering the late Pat Tillman, who gave his life in combat after trading his Arizona Cardinals NFL career for post-9/11 military service; and a sizzling halftime performance by Rihanna that briefly appeared to bring Twitter crashing down.
Oh yeah, and there was a pretty epic football game, too, as the Chief's recently crowned NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes outdueled Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts in an instant classic that thrilled millions, and angered many others, thanks to a controversial call at the end. In short, it was everything we've come to expect from the sport's biggest stage: lots of excitement before the game, a pretty good scrum over four quarters, and a lot of confetti flying in the end.
But as thrilling as the game was to NFL fans, millions of viewers paid especially close attention to the annual onslaught of Super Bowl commercials, which reportedly went for a price tag of $6-7 million for 30 seconds of air time this year, according to Yahoo Sports. That prime-time space on Fox Network's broadcast of the game produced more than 50 ads, some that were yawners, others that were memorable, and a few that were controversial.
This year, there was also a noticeable outdoors flavor to the Super Bowl commercials that included an ad from Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's for the second time after the company aired a commercial during the 2021 game won by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The BPS' 2023 ad featured a smiling fly angler holding up a stunning world-record fish on the fly. According to a BPS release about the commercial, the ad featured a world-record size Arctic Char, an incredibly beautiful fish that was front and center for a couple of seconds in the 30-second spot.
The Springfield, Mo., company indicated that the fish was caught and released by John Paul Morris on Aug. 26, 2019 while he was fly fishing with his dad, who just so happens to be legendary angler, noted conservationist, and BPS founder Johnny Morris. No exact dimensions were given on Morris' tremendous catch, but there was no doubt that it was a show stopper, a massive fish and certainly a world-class specimen.
For the record, in the most recent edition of the International Game Fish Association "World Record Game Fishes" book, the all-tackle record for the species is 32.9 pounds, a behemoth caught by Jeffery Ward in July 1981 as he fished in Canada's Northwest Territories. For fly-rod enthusiasts, the IGFA benchmark is a 25-pound, 11-ounce specimen caught in Russia back in July 2021 by Ilya Sherbovich.
For the IGFA's world record catch-and-release mark for Arctic Char—which Morris' fish would have likely occupied in the IGFA's vacant fly rod division if he had submitted a record application—the all-tackle record is a 93-centimeter (36.6 inches) fish landed by James Schmid in August 2019 in Nunavut, Canada.
The BPS commercial comes on the heels of the company's 50th anniversary celebration in 2022. The footage of Morris’ stunningly beautiful fish, which was "returned to the majestic river above the Arctic Circle at the mouth of the Arctic Ocean," made the BPS commercial a feel-good moment for outdoors enthusiasts.
It was timely, too, as within a month another season of professional bass fishing kicks with Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour Stage One event near Orlando (Link: ) this week, and the Bassmaster Elite Series hits Florida’s Lake Okeechobee a few days later.
Celebrating conservation and the connection that the outdoors delivers to people from all walks of life, the commercial—now parked at BPS’ YouTube channel— evoked feelings that many Outdoor Sportsman Group fans certainly understand. Early morning mist in a mountain valley, the sweet smells and crackle of a campfire at night, the quiet stroke of a canoe paddle as a fly line slips into the air in search of an eight-pound bass, and the process of getting ready for it all at stores like Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's, both big parts of Morris’ outdoors retail kingdom.
In celebrating hunting and fishing’s cherished traditions, the commercial noted the company’s ongoing commitment to conservation, and invited ad watchers to join the retailer’s commitment going forward. The company says that in addition to the first-quarter Super Bowl LVII airing Sunday, the Bass Pro Shops ad will also be featured again this upcoming weekend during the Daytona 500 NASCAR race in Florida. In total, the company says that the commercial is anticipated to reach more than 100 million viewers before all is said and done.
In addition to the BPS Sunday, North Dakota-based outdoors and sporting gear retailer Scheels joined the commercial parade, airing its own 30-second spot that promoted teamwork and togetherness in sports, the outdoors community, and beyond.
Where all this leads, who knows, but perhaps in the future, more companies in the outdoors space may bring similar positive messages to viewers about our nation's hunting and fishing heritage, as well as the ongoing need for successful wildlife and habitat conservation efforts.