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How the Cetaphil Super Bowl ad went from beloved to controversial

At first it was praised. Then an influencer said the idea for the ad was stolen.
Cetaphil commercial
YouTube, @sharavinaaa via TikTok
/ Source: TODAY

It all started with a Super Bowl ad.

Skincare brand Cetaphil aired a heartwarming commercial during the 2024 Super Bowl on Feb. 11 honoring the newfound bond between fathers and daughters from finding a shared interest in football amid Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce's romance.

But the controversy behind the ad started days before the big game when the commercial hit the internet on Feb. 9.

The ad received mostly positive praise until a social media content creator alleged the skincare brand copied the concept of their commercial from her TikTok videos. Cetaphil has since said in a statement to TODAY.com that the ad was “an original creation and without seeing Sharon’s TikTok content.”

Here's what to know about the backlash — and how it was resolved.

What did influencer Sharon Mbabazi allege?

Sharon Mbabazi, 24, posted a TikTok on Feb. 10 that included a snippet of the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce inspired-commercial, and explained how it was similar to videos she had been posting for months with her stepfather.

"When Cetaphil's Super Bowl commercial copies your TikToks," she says, with the audio, "Is this about us?"

The Cetaphil ad follows a father making several attempts to bond with his daughter over football, including gifting her a jersey with Swift’s lucky number 13 on it. He makes an effort to like her interests, including upping his own skincare routine and donning friendship bracelets with his daughter in their coordinating jerseys.

Mbabazi said on social media that the ad, which released on Feb. 9, was “bar for bar” the “same concept” as videos she previously filmed and posted on TikTok with her stepfather Mark DeLuca back in September 2023.

“It’s the fact that they have a mixed race girl in the video and a white dad. I’m a Black girl, my stepdad is white,” she pointed out in her response. “In the video, she’s doing her makeup, her skincare on her vanity and her white dad walks in. I was doing my makeup in my white vanity and my white dad walks in and tells me about football.”

Mbabazi said that she believed it to be a simple coincidence at first, until she continued to watch the commercial. She said that the ad mimicked several of the moments she shared with her stepfather on social media, including him coming into her room and putting on skincare, in his case, under eye patches.

After Swift was spotted at the Kansas City Chiefs game on Sept. 24 cheering on her then-rumored beau, Mbabazi shared several touching — and hilarious — moments she shared with her stepfather to bond over the crossover of both of their interests.

In one TikTok from Sept. 26, she wrote that her stepdad was “updating me on Taylor and Travis everyday since Sunday.” Two days later, she shared another TikTok where she and her stepdad put on eye masks together and discussed his “updates” on their budding relationship, including the media frenzy it caused.

Did Mbabzi's stepdad weigh in?

In another video, Mbabazi’s stepdad shared his own reaction to the commercial and shared his support for her and her ideas.

“Here’s the deal, Cetaphil, that is a beautiful story that you have in your commercial that’s going to be on Super Bowl, but it’s our story,” he said. “Beautiful content. My daughter made the content that you stole.”

At the end of the clip, he urged fans of Swift, as well as the singer and Kelce themselves to “call them out” and get credit for his stepdaughter.

Mbabazi and DeLuca did not respond to a request for comment from TODAY.com.

How did Cetaphil respond?

Cetaphil said in a statement to TODAY.com the brand developed the ad campaign as "an original creation and without seeing Sharon's TikTok content."

"We were inspired by a unique trend this year in which numerous young women and girls have been bonding with their fathers over football and posting about it on their social channels," a representative for Cetaphil said. "After speaking with Sharon, we see how she contributed to this trend personally. This campaign was a response to that trend, and we are therefore not surprised the campaign connects with so many."

Mbabazi said Cetaphil also reached out to her directly, according to a TikTok she posted with DeLuca hours ahead of the Super Bowl on Feb. 11.

"We wanted to say that Cetaphil has reached out and they've acknowledged all the videos and all the content," she said. "And they've made things right with us." TODAY.com has reached out to Cetaphil for clarification.

DeLuca thanked the "millions of people" who had shown their support across their social media pages.

"It's important to note that Cetaphil spent a lot of time working with us," he said. "And ultimately, they will represent Sharon and her brand well."