DES MOINES — After the dazzle and pop of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime show this Sunday, Michael R. Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is hoping to “stop people in their tracks” with an emotional ad featuring a mother who lost her son to gun violence.
In the minute-long ad, which the campaign released on Thursday, Calandrian Kemp tells the story of her son, George Kemp Jr., as the camera pans across childhood pictures of George in football gear. He was shot and killed in 2013 during an altercation while he was at mechanic school; he was 20.
“I just kept saying, you cannot tell me that the child I gave birth to is no longer here,” Ms. Kemp says, her voice breaking. The screen then shows white text on a black background: “2,900 children die from gun violence every year.”
That figure has been cited by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group primarily financed by Mr. Bloomberg.
Ms. Kemp then praises Mr. Bloomberg’s record on gun control. “I know Mike is not afraid of the gun lobby — they’re scared of him,” she says. “And they should be.”
The ad cost the campaign $11 million for 60 seconds in front of what is regularly the largest television audience of the year; predictions for this year’s Super Bowl, which will be broadcast on Fox, hover around 100 million viewers. The ad is scheduled to air between the end of the halftime show and the beginning of the third quarter, the campaign said.
The ad’s eight-figure purchase price, and its expected reach, is a show of financial and messaging dominance. But it is also a relatively small slice of a relentless national advertising strategy: Mr. Bloomberg, who is self-financing his campaign, has already spent $275 million of his multibillion-dollar fortune on television, radio and digital media.
In the age of data-driven, targeted advertising, spending so much on a single ad to reach such a broad audience may seem wasteful. But Howard Wolfson, a top adviser to Mr. Bloomberg, said the thought behind buying an ad during the Super Bowl was simple: It will reach the largest available audience, and such ads are often talked about well after the game.
“It’s a time when people get together and they sit down and they watch the Super Bowl, but they also know that there are these ads and there’s a lot of conversation about the ads,” Mr. Wolfson said. “It’s a very wide net, it’s a broad swath of Americans, and this is an issue that there’s been an awful lot of agreement on.”
The campaign said it selected an ad about gun violence for the Super Bowl slot because it was an issue “central to Mike Bloomberg.” Indeed, Mr. Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York, made the final call. When shown a variety of ads to choose from, Mr. Bloomberg was “adamant” that the campaign ran the one featuring Ms. Kemp.
“I cried the first time I saw it,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Other people who saw it in the office cried. There are a lot of fairly hard-bitten political people here.”
President Trump’s re-election campaign has also purchased 60 seconds’ worth of advertising during the game, but it has not released a preview of its spot.
Gun control is perhaps the issue most central to Mr. Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor and his activism after leaving City Hall. In 2018, he spent $110 million to back candidates for Congress who have “strong gun safety records,” according to the campaign.
Though the ad may change few viewers’ minds about a polarizing issue like gun rights, it makes the case to Democratic primary voters that Mr. Bloomberg is the best candidate to fight for tougher gun laws.
Mr. Bloomberg is not competing in the Iowa caucuses, which will take place the night after the Super Bowl, nor has he mounted a concerted effort in New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, which also vote in February. He is instead focusing on the 14 states that vote on Super Tuesday, March 3, when about 40 percent of the Democratic delegates will be allocated.
By flooding the airwaves across the country, Mr. Bloomberg is betting he can drown out his Democratic rivals, who are still focused on campaigning in the early-voting states. The advertising blitz has helped him move up to 7 percent support in the latest New York Times national polling average, good enough for fifth place.
The Super Bowl ad also follows the Bloomberg campaign’s strategy of advertising heavily during sporting events, which are some of the rare broadcasts that still capture live audiences in an age of digital streaming platforms.
Mr. Bloomberg’s advisers said they were not concerned about running an emotional ad about a divisive issue amid the often humorous beer and snack food commercials.
“I think it’s going to stop people in their tracks,” Mr. Wolfson said. “Frankly, amid the dancing raisins and souped-up cars, a mother speaking fundamental and powerful truths about her experience and her son’s loss will draw an awful lot of attention, deservedly so.”