Female football player could become the first woman to receive a scholarship to play football in college

Toyota is no stranger to dropping a truckload of marketing dollars to gain visibility at the Super Bowl. This year is no different as the automaker puts the spotlight on its new Toyota RAV4 Hybrid (RAV4 HV) with the help of female football player Antoinette “Toni” Harris. As if the world isn’t getting any football with the Super Bowl already, Harris’ involvement in Toyota’s RAV4 HV commercial could shine the spotlight on both the SUV and her remarkable journey to become the first woman to receive a college football scholarship offer for a non-kicking position. The 60-second commercial will run at the end of the second quarter of Super Bowl LIII, just before the halftime show.

Toyota has never been shy about the messages it tries to convey from its Super Bowl commercials. Last year’s “Good Odds” commercial featuring eight-time Paralympic gold medalist Lauren Woolstencroft was a particular tear-jerker. This year, the automaker’s new commercial for Super Bowl LIII shines the spotlight on another woman who’s making her own mark in the sports world: Antoinette “Toni” Harris.

For those who aren’t familiar, Harris is a 22-year old sophomore from East Los Angeles College who’s also the first female football player to play a non-specialist position (kickers and punters) in the collegiate level.

More importantly, Harris, who plays free safety for the California community college, could also become the first woman to receive a college football scholarship for a non-specialist position. At the moment, she has already received scholarship offers from four schools — Bethany College, Adams State University, Graceland University and Kentucky Christian University — and is still in discussion with coaches from other four-year colleges about possible football scholarship.

Toyota's 2019 Super Bowl Commercial Features Antoinette “Toni” Harris
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Harris hasn’t made a final decision on which college she wants to play for, but her story has become important in the eyes of a lot of people, not only because of the history and precedent it will set, but because of the influence and inspiration it’s already generating in the eyes of a lot of people. Toyota, which is adept at tugging at our heartstrings with its Super Bowl ads, identified Harris as the ideal star to promote the RAV4 HV, the hybrid version of the automaker’s popular crossover line that’s hitting the market this year.

The 60-second commercial basically tackles the idea of assumptions and the pitfalls of assuming something just because convention dictates our beliefs.

The entire commercial mixes shots of Harris and the RAV4 HV with shots and footage of her younger years as she continued to break down walls with her desire — and talent — to play football, wrongfully considered to this day as a man’s sport. Football commentator Jim Nantz provides the voice of the ad, establishing the commercial’s “don’t-believe-everything-people-say-about-you” tone. In the end, Harris supplies the hook, addressing all the assumptions people have made about her by saying “I’ve never been a big fan of assumptions.” The commercial wraps up by connecting Harris’ story with that of the RAV4 HV and the assumptions people have about hybrid SUVs and their purpose in the world.

Toyota's 2019 Super Bowl Commercial Features Antoinette “Toni” Harris
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It’s a good commercial from Toyota, in large part because it managed to tie up two different stories into one by addressing the common issues — misguided assumptions and pre-conceived conclusions — that binds the two stories together. Just as Antoinette “Toni” Harris is breaking down barriers with her play in the football field, Toyota hopes that the 60-second spot helps the RAV4 HV establish its own path to success, regardless of all the assumptions people have of it.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not like Toyota actually needs to convince people to buy the RAV4, regardless of what powertrain sits under its hood. The crossover remains one of Toyota’s most popular models, selling a record 427,168 units in 2018 alone.

Still, a hybrid version is going to raise some eyebrows, even though the RAV4 HV already looks like a hot ticket item for Toyota when it launches in the U.S. this year.

Not only does it look good inside and out, but the RAV4 HV is also powered by a choice of two different engines — a 2.0-liter four-cylinder unit, and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder unit — that will work with a number of electric motors to provide the crossover its power and performance numbers. Toyota has yet to release those numbers, but for reference, its predecessor, the 2018 RAV4 Hybrid was powered by a 2.5-liter inline-four cylinder engine and three electric motors. All together, the setup was responsible for producing 194 horsepower.

Toyota's 2019 Super Bowl Commercial Features Antoinette “Toni” Harris
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The new Toyota RAV4 HV should be better than its predecessor. Whatever assumptions you may have of it should fly out the window faster than it takes Antoinette “Toni” Harris to make an open-field tackle.

Further Reading

2019 Toyota RAV4 - Driven
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Read our full driven review of the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota RAV4.

2019 Toyota RAV4 Exterior Wallpaper quality
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Read our full review on the 2019 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

Toyota returns to the 2019 Super Bowl with a spotlight on two game-changers - the all-new 2019 RAV4 HV (RAV4 Hybrid) and powerhouse female football player Antoinette “Toni” Harris.

The Super Bowl spot, which will appear toward the end of the second quarter, features the 2019 RAV4 HV (XSE HV grade, specifically), a hybrid that will defy expectations and redefine what it means to be a hybrid. Performance-wise, the 2019 RAV4 HV is truly the no-compromise crossover sport utility vehicle thanks to its enhanced power and acceleration.

“The 2019 RAV4 HV is the vehicle that will shatter perceptions of hybrids, much like how Toni is shattering perceptions of a football player,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president, Toyota Marketing, Toyota Motor North America. “We’re excited to highlight Toni’s inspirational story during the Big Game and remind viewers that assumptions should always be challenged.”

Narrated by sportscaster Jim Nantz, the spot features 22-year-old Detroit native Toni Harris, the first female football player to play a non-specialist position. She is also the first and only female player to be offered a full scholarship as a non-specialist on defense. As a sophomore defensive back (free safety) at East Los Angeles College, Toni has received four scholarship offers from universities excited to help her continue her journey on and off the field.

“I am thrilled to partner with Toyota on our like-minded quest to defy expectations, lead the charge without compromise and overcome adversity,” said Harris. “I hope this will inspire others who are experiencing a similar journey.”

Directed by legendary Super Bowl director Joe Pytka who has directed more than 80 Super Bowl commercials, “Toni” was Pytka’s first time working with Toyota. “Toni’s story and the Toyota RAV4 HV narrative complement each other nicely and it was a true pleasure to feature them during the most-watched television event of the year,” said Pytka.

More than four years ago, Toyota adopted a cohesive marketing approach, inclusive of multicultural marketing, bringing together its agencies into a total market model called Total Toyota or T2. The Total Toyota team, includes Saatchi & Saatchi, Burrell Communications, Conill Advertising & interTrend, with Zenith placing TV and outdoor media buys.

For this year’s Big Game, Burrell Communications created and produced Toni’s story, with additional support from both Saatchi & Saatchi and Zenith Media.

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