9-year-old Austin-area best friends return with Super Bowl ad
Microsoft turned two 9-year-old Austin-area best friends into celebrities when it featured them in an emotional viral holiday commercial late last year.
Now, those friends — Owen Sirmons and Gunnar Franchione — are back in a Super Bowl commercial that furthers Microsoft's message of inclusivity and is sure to bring the waterworks.
A two-minute extended version of the commercial, titled "We All Win," was released online Thursday by Microsoft. In it, a half-dozen boys and girls with limited mobility — including Owen, who has Escobar syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that makes a wheelchair necessary for long distances — use the Xbox Adaptive Controller to play video games with their friends.
"One of the biggest fears early on is how will Owen be viewed by the other kids?" Owen's father, Richard Sirmons, says with emotion in the commercial. "He's not different when he plays."
Owen's mom, Erica Sirmons, said the family was contacted a few weeks ago by Microsoft about filming another commercial; camera crews came to their Kyle home to shoot Jan. 10-12. It wasn't until Jan. 27, however, that they learned the ad would be shown during the Super Bowl.
"We are a normal family; we live in a small town," Erica Sirmons said Friday afternoon. "I don't know how many people can say that they've been in a Super Bowl commercial. To say they're in a Super Bowl commercial about them? That's crazy."
The commercial includes footage of Owen and Gunnar, who are in fourth-grade at Blanco Vista Elementary School in San Marcos, playing Xbox with two other friends from school, David Salas and Evan Mays, said Hays school district spokesman Tim Savoy. Owen and Gunnar have been best friends since meeting in kindergarten at Blanco Vista.
"No matter how your body is or how fast you are, you can play," Owen says in the commercial. "It's a really good thing to have in this world."
Kathleen Hall, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of brand, advertising and research, said in a statement that this commercial exemplifies the message of inclusivity that Microsoft is trying to send.
"Our intent with our ads is to illustrate a product and a human truth and deliver on our mission of empowering every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. In this instance, the Xbox Adaptive Controller helps the children enhance their gaming experience and compete in new ways," Hall said. "What better message for a premiere sporting event?"
When Microsoft runs a 60-second version of the ad during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl on Sunday, you can bet that the Sirmons family, which is throwing a party in honor of the occasion, will be watching.
"We're glad that Microsoft is so smitten with Owen, because we're supersmitten with them," Erica Sirmons said. "This is a message that we're so passionate about. We're all on Cloud Nine."