The one-minute commercial featured King’s famous “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon he gave at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, just two months before he was assassinated.
In ad depicts “moments of struggle, such as a sweating man doing push-ups, and moments of heroism, such as a firefighter carrying a boy outside a burning building.”
It also shows a Dodge Ram truck transporting a church.
Ironically, what the ad doesn’t include is the part from MLK’s sermon where he warns against spending too much when buying a car.
“Do you ever see people buy cars that they can’t even begin to buy in terms of their income? You’ve seen people riding around in Cadillacs and Chryslers who don’t earn enough to have a good T-Model Ford,” MLK said in his sermon. “But it feeds a repressed ego. You know, economists tell us that your automobile should not cost more than half of your annual income. So if you make an income of $5,000, your car shouldn’t cost more than about $2,500. That’s just good economics.”
Immediately after the spot aired, The King Center in Atlanta announced that neither the center nor King’s daughter, Bernice King, approved it.
The ad was given the green light by Dexter King, MLK’s son who runs the company that manages the late civil rights leader’s intellectual property.
His company approved the ad, saying:
“We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program,” the firm, Intellectual Properties Management, said in its statement.
Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK’s words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight’s @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial.
— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) February 5, 2018
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, which manufactures Dodge Ram trucks, also had this to say about the ad:
“It is 50 years to the day that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave such a tremendous speech about the value of service,” the company said. “Ram was honored to have the privilege of working with the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr. to celebrate those words during the largest TV viewing event annually. We worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way.”