Muhammad Ali in IBM Super Bowl spot

In his day, Muhammad Ali was a pro at shock and awe. He is still a revered figure in the sports world, and now he is a major part of IBM’s last-minute entry in the Super Bowl of Advertising. Shot just last week by noted director Joe Pytka, the spot from Ogilvy & Mather/ New York is a continuation of the computer giant’s Linux campaign featuring the blond- haired young boy, who has been seen in a variety of settings around the world.

As you may know, IBM has spent big bucks to promote Linux, and it has decided to cough up a couple million dollars more to reach the massive Super Bowl audience. Unlike the many humorous spots that are sure to be on offer during the game, the IBM commercial goes for the emotional punch instead.

We see the young boy sitting in a chair in a stark white setting staring intently at a television screen on which appears vintage footage of Ali in his prime boasting about shaking up the world. Suddenly we see the real Ali, as he is today, sitting opposite the young boy and delivering the same message in person.

As moving as the message is, viewers may be even more shocked and moved to see how much Ali has changed — and not for the better. It’s clearly a struggle for him to mouth the words, but he does get them out. He is surely a symbol of perseverance, and that, we assume, is the chief message IBM wanted to convey about Linux.