It’s the start of the football season in the U.S, and that means millions of viewers watching the games in their own home. Which translates to millions of eyeballs watching television ads during the game. In short, NFL mid-game adverts are big-buck affairs.

Automakers know that, and have saved some of their best work for football fans.

Tonight, Nissan’s advertising campaign changes gear with its latest commercial for the 2011 Nissan Leaf.  But instead of world-renowned cyclist Lance Armstrong waxing lyrical on his feelings for Nissan’s all-electric car, this ad leaves the talking to a polar bear.

Yes, Nissan has finally pulled the eco-warrior card.

Nissan Leaf Ad - Bear

Nissan Leaf Ad - Bear

In the one minute advert, a solitary polar bear leaves its rapidly melting home and starts a journey from northern wilderness to suburbia, seeking shelter and sustenance along the way.

You’d be forgiven for thinking the advert was from Greenpeace, warning the viewer that human actions and global warming are killing rare and beautiful species, as our screens are filled with melting ice-caps, forlorn cries and large trucks.

But the sad and forlorn journey of the polar bear in the advert doesn’t end in death and destruction. It ends with a car.

The final scene shows a 2011 Nissan Leaf driver leave his home and walk towards his car to start the morning commute.  With a non-violent roar, the Bear appears from behind the Leaf, giving the startled driver a bear hug.

Nissan's Bear Hug

Nissan's Bear Hug

The tagline “Innovation for the planet, Innovation for all” rings out at the very end of the advert as the hugging bear and man fade to black.

No mention of price, no mention of specification and no mention of the competition certainly puts this advert firmly in the less-is-more camp. Combined with a heavy Facebook presence and captive audience during tonight’s first game we think the advert will certainly get attention.

But during the ad-breaks for the Vikings and Saints game tonight, will viewers really expect, or accept an advert which pulls the guilt card, especially when car adverts are traditionally a little less bleeding-heart and much more testosterone filled?

We’ll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, if you want to see the advert for yourself, play the video below.