TIME 2015 Super Bowl

The Ad That Changed Super Bowl Commercials Forever

How "The Force" has remained the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time

In 2011, on the Wednesday before the Super Bowl, a new Volkswagen commercial popped up on YouTube. “The Force” featured a kid ambling about his house dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader while attempting to use the Dark Side on everything from the family dog to the new Passat sitting in the driveway.

 

From the early 1980s—when Super Bowl ads became as anticipated as the game itself—until that moment, advertisers generally kept their spots under wraps, careful not to jeopardize the big reveal. But for the 2011 Super Bowl, Volkswagen was in a bind. The company had bought two 30-second spots—one for “The Force,” advertising the new Passat, and another called “Black Beetle,” showing off the new Jetta, both created by the ad agency Deutsch. But everyone involved felt a 60-second version of “The Force” was their best work. It was just long to play during the game.

 

VW’s marketing team also knew they were facing big obstacles on game day: the company hadn’t run a Super Bowl ad in over a decade, and the two commercials they planned to run would be competing against multiple spots from larger automakers with more ad dollars. So they decided that one possible way to stand out was to release “The Force” early, even though it defied what was widely accepted as smart advertising strategy around the biggest ad day of the year.

 

“It’s hard to think about now, but at the time, it was not the conventional wisdom to air or put online a commercial that was meant for the Super Bowl,” says Tim Ellis, who was the head of marketing for Volkswagen North America at the time and is now the chief marketing officer for video game maker Activision. “The wisdom was you hold it, because you would get the most value out of that impression by waiting.”

 

Ellis says it was a controversial decision to run it early, even among the ad agency and VW’s marketing team. “But I thought if everything goes right, this thing will catch fire and go viral,” he says.

 

By 8 a.m. Thursday, “The Force” had been viewed 1.8 million times on YouTube and had racked up 17 million views before kickoff, according to figures provided by Deutsch. Today, “The Force” has 61 million views on YouTube and is still the most shared Super Bowl ad of all-time and the second most shared TV commercial ever.

 

“It paid for itself before it ever ran,” says Mike Sheldon, CEO of Deutsch North America.

 

(MORE: 5 Ways This Year’s Super Bowl Ads Will Be Like No Other)

 

The ad’s runaway success changed how advertisers approach Super Bowl Sunday ever since. Instead of standalone spots, Super Bowl ads have become the anchors of extended marketing campaigns with vast social media presences often launched weeks before the game. This year, more than 20 brands have already released their full Super Bowl ads or special teasers for them.

 

“Super Bowl advertising has changed fundamentally,” says Tim Calkins, a Northwestern University marketing professor. “It’s gone from being a one-time event to a months-long marketing campaign.”

 

For years, the Super Bowl ad was a fleeting thing. 1984—the Apple ad still widely considered the greatest Super Bowl commercial—aired just twice, once in 10 local outlets on Dec. 31, 1983, and once more during the game the following month.

 

As the audience for the game grew, brands expanded their Super Bowl marketing budgets (think Budweiser’s talking frogs and Pepsi’s splashy productions with Ray Charles and Cindy Crawford). During the first Super Bowl, the average cost of a 30-second spot was $40,000 ($280,000 when adjusted for inflation). This year, NBC is charging $4.5 million, and at least one NBC executive claims that the exposure brands get during the Super Bowl is closer to $10 million in value. And as our media consumption habits have been transformed by social networks and mobile devices, a Super Bowl ad now needs to resonate on social media to be considered successful. Budweiser, for example, has launched the social media campaign #BestBuds urging people to help a rancher find his lost puppy in its latest spot, and Pepsi and ShopTV will send out tweets during Katy Perry’s halftime performance with links for viewers to buy related merchandise.

 

“What was just a bunch of 30-, 60-second TV commercials, everybody now has turned this into a full-on social media integrated play,” Deutsch’s Sheldon says. “I don’t look at Super Bowl ads as TV commercials. The Super Bowl is a social media and PR phenomenon that has a number of integrated components in which one is a TV commercial.”

 

(MORE: Watch Victoria’s Angels Play Football (in Actual Football Attire))

 

More than any other ad agency, Deutsch appears to have been the first to recognize that new paradigm. Back in 2010, when the agency won a bid to develop the TV campaign for Volkswagen’s Jetta and Passat lines, employees in Deutsch’s Los Angeles offices had placed funny photos above their four-color copy machine, one of which was a kid in a Darth Vader costume sulking inside a Burger King. That inspired the company’s creative team to come up with a spot featuring a similar kid dressed as the Star Wars villain who keeps failing in his attempts to use the Force around his home until he succeeds in turning on his dad’s new Volkswagen (the assist from his dad, who actually turned on the car, was a clever way to tout the Passat’s new remote starter). It was a perfect combination: the enduring popularity of Star Wars, childhood nostalgia, touching moments between a father and son, a narrative arc that went tidily from conflict to resolution, and plenty of humor thanks to a 6-year-old dressed as a notorious movie villain.

 

This photo of a kid dressed as Darth Vader inside a Burger King inspired the creative team at as they were making “The Force” ad. Courtesy of Deutsch

“If you don’t have all of these ingredients, the spot really doesn’t work,” says Tom Else, Deutsch’s VW account director.

 

Deutsch executives say it was a rare spot where there were essentially no changes or edits coming from inside creative or from the client.

 

“Very early on we knew it was extraordinary, but you can never predict what the world thinks is fantastic,” Else says.

 

Soon after it launched, “The Force” became the most shared TV spot of all-time, according to Unruly Media, which tracks and analyzes viral videos. The ad held the top spot for three years, until July 2014, when it was knocked off by a music video sponsored by yogurt brand Activia and featuring the singer Shakira. But “The Force” is still considered the most shared Super Bowl ad of all time.

 

“Every decade or so, there’s lightning in a bottle,” says Matt Jarvis, chief strategy officer of ad agency 72andSunny, which produced a popular Super Bowl ad for Samsung in 2013 and created a spot for Carl’s Jr. this year. “And I think this is one of those cases.”

 

Jarvis says “The Force” successfully used a combination of both earned media—YouTube hits, for example—along with paid media, such as a 15-second teaser spot that aired on “Saturday Night Live” the night before the game, to create momentum that continued through the Super Bowl.

 

“It was about building that wave and then riding that wave,” Ellis says.

 

It helped that the ad contained all the components of a viral hit. Unruly recently group-tested “The Force” and found that it still resonated with viewers, discovering that it hit five of 10 “social motivators” that Unruly’s execs say trigger people to share something. They found that viewers sent the ad to others in part because it reflected a shared passion with someone else (love for Star Wars, for instance) and that sharers believed it could be useful (their friend might be looking for a new car). But Unruly also found that it resonated on a more gut level, eliciting feelings of joy and surprise when the kid “turns on” the car, which researchers says is a key component in motivating us to share.

 

(MORE: Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad About a Lost Puppy is an Emotional Roller Coaster)

 

“It’s a great example of emotion,” says Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, adding that the peaks and valleys of the kid failing and finally succeeding, as well as the nostalgia it can elicit, are the main triggers for why it went viral.

 

After “The Force’s” success, Deutsch sensed that other advertisers would start releasing their ads early as well. So in 2012, the agency released the first full-length ad for an ad when it launched The Bark Side, which included dogs bark-singing Star Wars’ Imperial March. For the game, it released The Dog Strikes Back as its official Super Bowl ad, which again included the Darth Vader Kid from the previous year’s commercial. Both ads have remained in Unruly’s top 20 viral Super Bowl ads of all-time.

 

Since “The Force,” advertisers have increasingly created teaser ads, alternate versions of their Super Bowl commercials, or have released the ad in its entirety early. Among this year’s efforts to gin up early buzz are a T-Mobile spot featuring Kim Kardashian, a teaser for a Nationwide ad with actress Mindy Kaling, and a Bud Light spot that debuted on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” Dove, meanwhile, posted a version of its ad almost two weeks before the game, while Lexus released its full ad more than two weeks before Super Bowl Sunday.

 

(MORE: Watch a Dude Run Through a Life-Size Pac-Man Game in Bud Light’s Super Bowl Ad)

 

There are now essentially three groups of brands competing during the Super Bowl: those who release their ads early, those who tease their ads, and those who keep the ads a surprise. Northwestern’s Calkins says that for most advertisers, getting out early is often the best strategy.

 

“The Super Bowl builds over a matter of weeks, so if you’re a marketer, you have an opportunity to engage with customers for seven, 14, 21 days,” Calkins says. “You can really get some mileage from your creative.”

 

The challenge for Super Bowl advertisers, Calkins says, is twofold: breaking through the noise and saying something important about the product. “The hard thing is doing both of those things at the same time,” he says. “Ideally, you come up with an ad as charming as ‘The Force’ that also delivers a product benefit. But that is incredibly difficult to do.”

 

This year, Deutsch is working on two ads: one for mobile battery company mophie, and the other for Sprint. The company released the mophie spot on Thursday:

 

 

It’s designed to be understood even if you can’t hear the TV over loud and rowdy friends. “If you’re relying on some sort of audio or voice gag, it can get missed,” Sheldon says. “You can run that spot with no audio and you get the joke.”

 

But Deutsch is going in a different direction with its Sprint ad. While the agency has created a teaser, the actual ad won’t be released before the Super Bowl. The hope is that it can distinguish itself by swimming against the tide the agency helped create.

 

“When everybody else is screaming, the one whispering stands out,” Sheldon says. “It has a different volume than others. We’re breaking our own rules a little bit. It’s the kind of spot that you wouldn’t want to release early.”

TIME Super Bowl

Watch Obama Joke About ‘Deflategate’ Ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl

"I want you all to keep it clean"

President Obama weighed into the ‘deflategate’ controversy by cracking a few jokes ahead of Sunday’s Super Bowl.

Speaking at the annual House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia on Thursday, Obama called on any supporters of the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks to keep it clean, CNN reports.

“I want to just remind the New England and Pacific Northwest contingents [that] this is the City of Brotherly Love, so regardless of what you think about Sunday, I want you all to keep it clean,” he said.

Rep. Joe Crowley then shouted from the audience, “bring your own balls!

The Patriots have been accused of deflating their footballs during the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

[CNN]

TIME viral

Watch a Daring Ice Climber Become the First to Conquer the Frozen Niagara Falls

"I may have reached the top, but Niagara won the war"

A number of brave souls have gone over the Niagara Falls, but on Tuesday Canadian ice climbers Will Gadd and Sarah Hueniken became the first people to scale the world famous landmark.

Initially kept secret by sponsor Red Bull, the daring stunt was officially announced when news of the harrowing climb began to spread, according to National Geographic.

The two climbers followed a route along the edge of Horseshoe Falls, a 150-foot waterfall that is considered to be the most powerful in the world. Hueniken, who grew up 20 miles away, belayed Gadd as he made the first ascent. Hueniken then followed around 40 minutes later.

To us regular folk it looks like victory, but Gadd felt as if Niagara may have won the battle.

“That climb beat me up. I may have reached the top, but Niagara won the war,” he told Red Bull. “At the end of the day I was hypothermic. That waterfall did a lot more damage to me than I did to it!”

TIME Netherlands

Video: Dutch Police Confront Gunman Who Broke Into TV Studio

Footage from the broadcaster shows the gunman, a young man in a suit and tie, drop his weapon and surrender to police.

An armed man entered the Dutch national broadcaster on Thursday demanding to be put on the air before police restrained him.

No one was hurt in the incident, according to the broadcaster, NOS, which vacated its offices and temporarily stopped broadcasting. The motives of the gunman, a young man a in a suit and tie, are unclear.

Video footage published by NOS shows the gunman saying, according to a Reuters translation, “The things that are going to be said, those are very large world affairs. We were hired by the security service.”

In the clip above from NOG, police demand that the gunman drop his weapon and then put him in handcuffs. No shots are fired.

TIME faith

Nashville Evangelical Church Comes Out for Marriage Equality

"Could you be a church in Selma and not march, just handle your own community?" says pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church. "I don’t think I can do that."

Three Sundays ago in Franklin, Tenn., twenty minutes south of Nashville and in the heart of the country’s contemporary Christian music industry, pastor Stan Mitchell of GracePointe Church preached what was perhaps the most important sermon of his life. You can watch it above–start around 44:40 if you are short on time.

For the past three years, GracePointe has engaged itself in a time of listening on the topic of sexual orientation and identity. It began around the time that the country star Carrie Underwood, who goes to GracePointe, spoke out in favor of marriage equality in 2012, and the Westboro Baptist picketers showed up the church.

That was a time when, as Mitchell, 46, explains, the position of the church on marriage was classically evangelical. People who were not heterosexual could be members, but they could not serve on the board, lead worship or other church groups. They could be baptized and receive communion, but they could not be married or have their children dedicated.

For congregants on all sides of the debate, the conversation over the past three years has been at times painful, even devastating. For Mitchell, it has been a deeply personal as well as a spiritual journey, especially as he has seen it divide friends and family. And on Sunday, Jan. 11, the church reached a conclusion, as Mitchell shared:

“Our position that these siblings of ours, other than heterosexual, our position that these our siblings cannot have the full privileges of membership, but only partial membership, has changed,” he said, as many in the congregation stood to their feet in applause, and other sat in silence. “Full privileges are extended now to you with the same expectations of faithfulness, sobriety, holiness, wholeness, fidelity, godliness, skill, and willingness. That is expected of all. Full membership means being able to serve in leadership and give all of your gifts and to receive all the sacraments; not only communion and baptism, but child dedication and marriage.”

With those words, GracePointe became one of the first evangelical megachurches in the country to openly stand for full equality and inclusion of the LGBTQ community, along with EastLake Community Church near Seattle. The results of the conversation, he told his congregation, were not unanimous or exhaustive, but they were sufficient.

“I implore you, whether you ever worship here again, or whether you come back next week happier than you’ve ever been, when all else fails, and love never fails, you are mine and I am yours, and inclusion means that we can live together in agreement and disagreement,” he said. “But if this stretches you to the point of having to compromise your soul, and you do need to separate, I would be a hypocrite to say I do not understand that, because conversely, my soul has been stretched to the point that if I do not say what I say today, I cannot be here any longer.”

The way that Mitchell explains the shift is almost as significant as the move itself. Marriage equality was not the starting point of his sermon. For 45 minutes, the pastor explored a story from the gospel of Luke when, after Jesus’ death, two of his disciples are traveling on the road to Emmaus and meet a resurrected Jesus, but do not realize it is him. The disciples then tell Jesus the story of Jesus’ own crucifixion. Jesus responds by telling them the entire Scriptures, but even then they still don’t realize who he is. The story climaxes when the disciples finally have a moment of Epiphany, a term for divine revelation, when they are breaking bread with Jesus.

Mitchell used this story in his sermon to point out that faithful people can know Scripture deeply, and even be staring at Jesus, and still not understand what the word of God is saying. “Even the presence of God and a Bible in your lap doesn’t give an epiphany,” he told his congregation. “You do not look full in the face of Jesus when you are reading the text or looking at the sunrise, but if though the sunrise and through the text you are compelled to read and look up, see and look up, … if you don’t look up, even Jesus can read the Bible to you and you won’t see him.”

This passage from Luke is not the typical Biblical text that evangelicals use when talking about understanding sexuality. Usually the Apostle Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality, not the gospel stories of Jesus himself, are the trump card. But Mitchell’s is a Biblical argument, one that seeks to take seriously the meaning of Jesus’ message and understand it as a living, dynamic way.

Evangelical opponents of marriage equality don’t see it this way. After TIME published a feature on the national scope of this evangelical shift, some opponents claimed that evangelicals who are now openly welcoming to LGBTQ congregants no longer uphold the Bible’s teachings. The Family Research Council’s vice president Rob Schwarzwalder wrote, “Those professed Evangelicals who are willing to jettison the Bible’s teaching regarding homosexuality can no longer claim to be persons of the Gospel–Evangelicals.” Boyce College Biblical Studies professor Denny Burk blogged, “Can they in any meaningful sense be considered bellwethers for a movement defined by convictions that they have largely abandoned? I don’t think so.”

But churches that are shifting, like GracePointe and EastLake, are not only retaining their faith, they are also using their very evangelical roots to come to these new decisions. There are four hallmarks of evangelicalism, according to the historian David Bebbington–Biblicism, a high view of Scriptural authority; crucicentrism, a focus on the sacrifice of Jesus; activism, living out this gospel message; and conversionism, transforming their own lives.

Mitchell’s sermon pays tribute to all four of these, especially in his very high view of Scripture. It’s clear that GracePointe’s shift rests on study of and belief in the Bible. Mitchell’s interpretive methods rely heavily on textual analysis and even ancient word translation, two traditional elements of evangelical preaching. It may be a different reading of Scripture than evangelicals like Burk or Schwarzwalder or even Southern Baptists like Russell Moore use to shape their ethical outlook, but its evangelical core is hard to ignore. “Who has the copyright on the word evangelical?” Mitchell tells TIME. “I didn’t know there was a papacy on this.”

GracePointe’s move is not without concrete consequences. January giving usually is about $100,000–so far this month the church has brought in an estimated $52,000. When GracePointe began the listening process in 2012, Sunday attendance averaged 800-1000. The Sunday he preached the inclusion sermon, attendance was 673, and two weeks later, it was down to 482. “It’s a gut punch,” Mitchell says. “I know a year from now, I’m going to feel a whole lot better, but right now it is just hard.”

For now, spiritual and Biblical convictions are pushing GracePointe and its pastor forward. Pastors are coming to him quietly and undercover from all over town, he says, to talk with him about how to have this conversion in their own evangelical churches. And, while a three-year conversation is ending, another one is just beginning. “Could you be a church in Selma and not march, just handle your own community?” Mitchell asks. “I don’t think I can do that. We are on the front edge of a movement that means so much.”

TIME

The Americans Showrunners on That Shocking Death From Season 3’s Premiere

Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg on why the reaction to the graphic scene reminded them of their responsibility as writers

Spoilers for the Season 3 premiere ahead

The Americans returned with a bang on FX last night. The first episode of the third season ended with Russian operative Annalise being strangled to death while having sex with Yousaf, a foreign intelligence operative, and her target. Fellow spy Philip enters the room too late to save her but then begins brokering a deal with Yousaf to cover up the incident. It was a reminder to audiences that the plot about Russian spies hiding in 1980s America continues to pack a punch. But it was also a reminder to the writers of the real impact of their fictional show.

Before the premiere, several secret screenings of the episode were held around the country. Showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg monitored the reaction to these events on Twitter and noticed that several people were tweeting about a certain screening where a few men in the audience began laughing during the horrific death scene. The inappropriate reaction ruined the screening for many.

“Then a couple people tweeted that after the screening, some women in the audience really took the guys to task for laughing during that scene,” Weisberg explains to TIME. “It was a really interesting reminder to us as writers of what powerful material we’re trafficking in. People have reactions after watching it—maybe some of those people aren’t mature enough to watch it. I’m not trying to shame the guys who were laughing, but maybe because someone told them off, it was a chance for them to learn from that experience.”

In short, he concludes: “These aren’t just dumb TV shows. It means something to people.”

Fields added that they look at sex and violence on the show as a way to reveal something about their characters and deepen their stories, not as a ploy. “The greatest surprise in that scene is what develops between Philip and Yousaf when Philip comes into that room,” Fields says. “They both brought such pain and realism to that loss that they were both responsible for.”

The creators say Philip and Elizabeth will continue to face even stickier situations this season. That’s bad news for the Russian spies, but great news for viewers.

Read Next: The Americans Puts Mother (and Father) Russia to the Test

TIME NFL

Drew Brees on Deflategate: Air Pressure Imperceptible in Game

Brees was able to correctly guess the pressure levels of different footballs

Saints quarterback Drew Brees was on Conan on Wednesday, where he was inevitably asked about the NFL topic on everyone’s mind.

Brees briefly discussed Deflategate somewhat seriously before his appearance devolved into something more absurd.

Conan asked Brees if he can tell the difference between a ball that is properly inflated and one that is not.

“Throughout the course of a game, no,” Brees replied. “A ball will come up and you don’t even think about how it feels. You’re just programmed to go through your read, throw the ball, no excuses.”

Given a chance to sit and thoroughly examine some footballs, Brees was able to correctly guess their pressure levels. He wasn’t quite as successful when trying to throw those balls into the crowd, though.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME technology

The World’s Most Profitable Company Ever Was Launched in My Grandma’s House

Nowadays, the famous garage is mostly filled with my grandma’s laundry, cat litter, and her Ford sedan

My grandma’s house is your typical white, one-story house in the suburbs of the Silicon Valley—it has rustic red brick accents, baby blue trim, and a perfectly manicured front lawn. It’s also happens to have signs out front that read “No Trespassing. Security Cameras Are Filming. All Pictures Must Be Taken From Street.” To me, my grandma’s house is a second home, but to the rest of the world, it’s the place where Apple, Inc., was created.

Steve Jobs grew up in this Los Altos house throughout his childhood. In 1976, according to oft-repeated legend, he hatched the beginnings of Apple here, and put together the first 50 computers in the garage with Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak. (Wozniak recently said that that they didn’t do any manufacturing in the garage – they just finalized the computers in there. But the garage did represent them better than anywhere else.) In 1989, my paternal grandmother (Marilyn Jobs) married her second husband (Paul Jobs, Steve’s adoptive father). Soon after, my grandma moved into the house with the (not-yet-quite-so) famous garage.

As a kid, I always looked forward to going to my grandma’s house. It was a 25-minute drive across the South Bay from where my family lived in San Jose. I always knew we were within five minutes of my grandma’s house when we exited the 280 Freeway onto Foothill Expressway. As we turned onto my grandma’s street, we passed a strip mall with a Chevron Gas Station, a Trader Joe’s, and a Peet’s Coffee. When our car pulled into the driveway, my grandma would open the front door, smiling and waving at us from the porch. I always jumped out of the car and greeted her with one of my biggest hugs.

My grandma’s house is where I met my newborn brother for the first time because I was staying with her while my parents were in the hospital. It’s the place I went to after preschool to wait for my parents to pick me up and eat spoonfuls of smooth Skippy peanut butter while curled up in a reclining chair. It’s the place I went when I was sick, snuggling in bed to watch “Tom and Jerry.” It’s the place where, to this day, my family still goes to celebrate birthdays and eat my grandma’s delicious cake.

Throughout my childhood, my parents always mentioned that grandma’s house was a special place and to me it was, but in a completely different way. So when I was 10 and my parents told me about the wider significance of my grandma’s house, I shrugged it off with a laugh. How could this quaint place have been Ground Zero for such a world-famous company that steered the course of today’s technology?

Despite its celebrity status, this three-bedroom, three-bathroom house built in the early 1950s is a humble place. In the living room, porcelain Lladros figurines, Hummel collectibles, and blue and white China fill a curio cabinet by the fireplace. A Japanese bobtail cat named Daisy is always lounging in the small kitchen. A box of Betty Crocker white cake mix and a generic tub of chocolate frosting can always be found in the cupboard, waiting for grandma’s touch of love to make them special.

In 1976, the two-car garage was filled with computer boards, components, wires—and the promise of a great company. In fact, the garage was so packed with Steve Job’s equipment that Paul was forced to build a second garage in the backyard to store the cars. Nowadays, the garage is mostly filled with my grandma’s laundry, cat litter, and her Ford sedan. The only remnants of the garage’s famous past are a few of the original wooden shelves and wood-paneling wall, as well as the same cold concrete floors. It’s funny to think of people traveling hundreds of miles to catch a glimpse of this “treasure trove”!

Paul Jobs passed away in 1993, but my grandma still lives there. I’m in college now, 379 miles away in Southern California, but always visit when I come home on breaks. It’s pretty awesome to imagine that some of the first ideas for a world-renowned company were thought of in a place where I spent so much of my childhood. As a graphic design student, I truly appreciate the innovation that came out of the garage at my grandma’s house. Like so many people, I have an iPhone. When I gaze at it, I’m reminded that technology revolutions have to start somewhere—even if that somewhere is in the garage of a humble home.

Megan Chovanec is a freshman at Chapman University. She wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME NFL

How the NFL Convinced Michael Jackson to Perform in the 1993 Super Bowl Halftime Show

The league was eventually able to make a convincing argument

Michael Jackson gave one of the most memorable Super Bowl halftime show performances when he rocked the stage in 1993.

But it wasn’t easy for the NFL to convince a star like the King of Pop to perform in the middle of a sporting event back then. As this Austin Murphy story about how halftime became “The Halftime Show” details, the league was eventually able to make a convincing argument to Jackson:

For a month they got nowhere. (The NFL’s Jim) Steeg sat down with the King of Pop’s manager, Sandy Gallin, 11 months before Super Bowl XXVII. “I remember pitching them,” he says, “and them not really having a clue what we were talking about.” At a subsequent meeting, producer Don Mischer pointed out that the Super Bowl would be broadcast in more than 120 countries. Now he had Jackson’s full attention.

Steeg recalls Jackson saying, “So you’re telling me that this show is going live to all those places where I’ll never do a concert?” A pause. “I’m in.”

“Michael worked harder than anybody [who’s done the halftime show], before or since,” says Steeg, who remembers seeing Jackson still rehearsing his act at seven the night before the game, in a tent outside the Rose Bowl.

And it showed. Jackson, rocking a bandolier-draped frock coat on loan, apparently, from Muammar Gaddafi, was sensational. The final moments of that show were the most viewed in the history of television at the time.

You can read more about Jackson and all the other star-studded performances here.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser