Halftime Pep Talk and Trial Advocacy

Super Bowl has come and gone. As have the ads. Much has been said and written about Eastwood’s halftime advertisement for Chrysler. Carl Rove attacked it, claiming that it was a payback to Obama for the bailout. Joe Klein in Time magazine mused over how Rove and the Republicans got it all wrong and how Romney suffered from “his party’s silliness.”

But, before the advertisement and these musings fade into history, the advertisement is worth remembering for what it was – a dynamic piece of advocacy. It was both well written and delivered; it serves as an example of powerful oral advocacy. It is the kind of persuasion that is ideal for a call to arms at the end of closing argument. Let’s revisit it and examine both the content and delivery.


Here is the script again:

Eastwood: “Seems that we’ve lost our heart at times. The fog, the division, the discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one.

“All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And how do we win? Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And what’s true about them is true about all of us. This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again, and when we do the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines.”

The pep talk has at least four elements of a great advocacy. First, it is a story about overcoming obstacles and having fortitude: “We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t we find a way, then we’ll make one.” Second, it contains an ethical argument: “rallied around what was right.” Third, it uses a fitting analogy – a fist fight: “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.” Forth, belonging and teamwork: “we” repeated throughout the message.


While the pep talk is extremely well written, it is Eastwood and his delivery that make it so powerful. The truism is that you are your case. Here, Eastwood is the message – we will come back and succeed. He exudes confidence, grit and sincerity. He delivers the message in his best Dirty Harry, Grand Torino gravelly voice.

When crafting final words for a closing and how to deliver it, this ad is a nice reminder of how to do it perfectly.