Southwest’s Four New Commercials For Today’s NFL Games

Southwest is launching a new ad campaign with today’s NFL games “with the first spots appearing on the 1 p.m. NFL games broadcast Sunday by FOX, CBS and NBC.”

The new “Behind Every Seat is a Story” effort attempts to tell the carrier’s story as imagined by its passengers. It also pays service to the new state-of-the-art Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets that are to begin flying for the airline in October.

I’m less intrigued by “unique stories inspired by customers and their reasons for flying.” See, promoting the idea of flying sort of misses the point, this isn’t the 1930s and 40s where you had to convince people flying was safe or affordable. Advertising needs to explain not just why travel is good but why to travel with Southwest instead of competitors.

For most airlines that’s about earning a revenue premium (customers want to fly you). For Southwest it’s a matter of getting customers to go out of their way to book using the limited platforms (eg that sell Southwest tickets, since they aren’t available through traditional agency sites.

Here are the four spots. My absolute favorite? The young team whose coach inspires them to go out and win by telling them he has so much confidence he’s already bought the tickets for them to continue on. They go out onto the field, come back despondent, and the commercial cuts away to the assurance that Southwest has no change fees.

The ads have a companion website to tell 175 stories of their customers, their new Boeing 737 MAX 8s have 175 seats. Each seat is taken, each passenger has a story.

The best thing about this campaign is that Southwest is investing heavily in ‘transfarency’ — no fees for changes, checked bags — suggesting that they aren’t about to kill that model with their new software which would more easily allow pre-assigned seats (and seat fees) and more.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. First of all, there’s no seat assignments so the seat numbers make no sense to the brand. Second, the fares are often so much higher, so it’s still cheaper to fly another airline.

  2. I know it’s not the trend in advertising these days, but sometimes I just wish that Southwest would unleash some brutal attack ads on their competitors. (I guess everyone prefers trying to build positive brand affinity rather than truly differentiating their product.) Depict a competitor with surly FAs, basic economy passengers forced to pay $100 for carry-on, and $300 change fees*. Then say, fly us, because everyone else is full of BS, and we allow free bags/changes, etc.

    *Saavy frequent fliers are aware of the tradeoffs, and will make their purchase decisions accordingly, but they already have preferences and aren’t the targets of these ads.

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