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Tecmo Bo by Billy Kheel
Nobody is more closely associated with Tecmo Super Bowl than Bo Jackson. The real-life two-sport star was a marvel. Tecmo Bo was a legend. “I think the only player who’s better than me is Bo Jackson,” Okoye said. In the game, the Raiders running back is unstoppable. While developing the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary You Don’t Know Bo, director Michael Bonfiglio kept hearing the same refrain. “Every time I mentioned Bo to somebody they would always say, ‘Tecmo Bowl!’” said Bonfiglio, who slipped footage of Tecmo Bo into the 2012 film. “It was always the first thing that anybody said.”
Jackson’s Tecmo Super Bowl dominance isn’t just part of his own lore. Without the electric presence of Tecmo Bo, the game might’ve ended up buried in a box in America’s dusty attic.
The Fox animated series Family Guy, which doubles as a loosely curated museum of pop culture references, even recently paid homage to the game. An episode that aired in May showed a Nintendo-playing Peter Griffin running wild as Tecmo Bo.
This spring, two Southern California admen saw that scene and felt validated. Senior art director Sheldon Melvin and senior copywriter Matt Kappler of the agency David&Goliath had always figured that guys in their 30s and 40s would love a Tecmo-themed commercial. The game popping up in Family Guy pushed them to act on their instinct. It was settled: Kia’s 2016 fall campaign, set to launch at the beginning of the NFL season, would star Tecmo Bo. “What is comparable to the car?” Melvin said. The answer was 8-bit Bo Jackson, who, as Melvin pointed out, had “agility, speed, and power.” The real Jackson was hired for a pair of spots, in which Bo climbs into a Kia Sorento and drives into a 3-D version of the realm that he once ruled. (Bo victim Brian Bosworth costars in one of the ads.)