In the rarefied airtime of Super Bowl ads, VCU Brandcenter alums get plenty of attention
Author: Leila Ugincius, VCU News
hris Colliton and Kevin Weir are no strangers to the world of Super Bowl ads. The alums of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Brandcenter made the fake Crocodile Dundee movie for Tourism Australia in 2018. Last year, they partnered with DraftKings to create the High Stakes Beer Ad, the first commercial that viewers could bet on. Both spots were not only memorable but award-winning.
This year, for yesterday’s Super Bowl LVIII, the executive creative directors at Droga5 heralded the heroic return of the Coors Light Chill Train. For years, the brand used the iconic beer train in all of its advertising, but Coors retired its frosty locomotive more than a decade ago.
“We wanted to bring it back in the biggest way possible, on the biggest stage possible – updated for 2024, of course,” Colliton said. “We’ve always loved the Coors Light Beer Train. It’s an iconic part of beer advertising that has a nostalgic magic to it that people and culture love. But we needed the right moment to bring it back … and we needed to do it in a truly unforgettable way.”
The commercial features the beloved chill train, conducted by legendary rapper LL Cool J, traversing the country leaving cold Coors Lights in its wake. The signature Colliton/Weir twist that makes it unforgettable? “Passengers” who purchased tickets “ride” the train — thanks to CGI.
“All the tickets for the train were scooped up within one minute of being released,” Weir said. “The people who secured seats [were] added into the train using CGI, and then a special, slo-mo version of the ad [was] released on Super Bowl Sunday. This [gives] everyone aboard ultimate bragging rights.”
The train crashes into a house at the end, but that part was mostly real.
“We actually built the house from scratch in a South African warehouse because we needed to destroy it — which we did,” Colliton said. “There was a life-size truck, shaped like a massive train, that we drove through the front door into the living room. We only had one take, which we filmed from three angles. For safety reasons, no one was allowed on set except for the stunt drivers.”
Weir noted that “Super Bowl projects are always very special because you know everyone in the country will be watching. It’s definitely stressful … but also rewarding if all goes to plan.”
The VCU Brandcenter, a graduate program for advertising and branding, is a breeding ground for future Super Bowl commercial makers. Most workers in the advertising industry never have the chance to work on the high-profile spots, but this year’s Super Bowl featured 20 campaigns that 27 Brandcenter alumni helped create.