AI brings Vince Lombardi back to life for Super Bowl ad

The iconic coach will deliver a message of unity before Super Bowl LV.

At the end of every Super Bowl, the winning team is awarded the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named in honor of the iconic Green Bay Packers football coach, who passed away in 1970.

Lombardi was known for his ability to inspire, and after the chaos of 2020, the NFL thought the world could use some of that inspiration — so it’s bringing Lombardi back to life for a pre-game Super Bowl ad.

“You’re going to see Vince Lombardi,” Tim Ellis, the NFL’s chief marketing officer, told USA Today Sports. “And it’s going to sound just like him, as well.”

Lombardi’s Super Bowl Ad

The Super Bowl ad is a collaboration between the NFL, creative agency 72andSunny, and visual effects studio Digital Domain.

It serves as the end to the “It Takes All of Us” campaign the league launched at the start of the 2020 NFL season.

“It was much more than a tagline,” Zach Hilder, 72andSunny group creative director, told Ad Week. “It was a north star for the year. It takes all of us to end racism, overcome COVID-19 or whatever we faced in 2020. As the world went on, this line felt relevant and needed a finale.”

From that starting point, the NFL landed on the idea of using Lombardi’s likeness to deliver a final message of unity in a Super Bowl ad.

“People often saw him more as a teacher than as a coach,” Ellis said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What would he have to say to us now? What are the things that this country needs to hear?'”

“And that became the narrative spine,” he continued. “Coach Lombardi walking through the world, inspiring us and unifying us towards the future.”

The Face-Swapping AI

To bring the late Lombardi to life, the creators of the Super Bowl ad had a voice actor in Brooklyn record their script’s audio.

They then used AI software to make it perfectly match Lombardi’s tone and range.

For the visuals, they combined existing film of the coach with newly recorded footage of Topekan realtor/actor Russ Hutchison.

That’s when “Charlatan” came off the bench.

Charlatan is Digital Domain’s proprietary face-swapping AI, which can blend the performances of two actors without the use of time-consuming motion capture tech.

The company recently used the AI to make soccer star David Beckham look decades older in an anti-malaria ad.

So far, the NFL has only released a short teaser of the Super Bowl ad, but Lombardi’s children have already seen the full clip and given it their blessing, according to Ellis.

“They were very excited,” he said, “because they felt like this was a realistic human portrayal of their father, and it found a way to express the best things about their father.”

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