Super Bowl Advertising: the Big Game, the Big Stories

The Super Bowl is about stories: the big catch that wins the game, the goal line stand that stops a crucial touchdown, the thrilling (and sometime shocking) half time performances. This is what marketers do every day. Little wonder, then, that the Super Bowl has become as much about the advertising as it is about the game…walking hand-in-hand to create to create sports narratives and iconic commercials that will be talked about for years to come.

And so on Sunday night, while an ambitious young quarterback battled a veteran looking to write a final chapter to a celebrated career, 80 ads were seen by 115 million viewers around the world.

What marked 2016’s crop of ads was its decidedly straightforward approach: humor, celebrities and cute animals carried the day. The tone was light and celebratory in keeping with the game’s national status as a quasi-holiday. The price tags were high with the cost of a 30-second spot reaching a new high (a whopping $5 million). We’ve shared some of the most compelling highlights below:

  • Cuteness, Canines and Ketchup: If you’re an animal lover you weren’t disappointed – there was an endless parade of animals throughout the game. The Clydesdales made an appearance for Budweiser, as did a stampede of wiener dogs reunited with their ketchup bottles for Heinz, a flock of sheep sang the lyrics to “Somebody to Love” and one of the most buzzed about creatures: the “puppymonkeybaby” – a diaper clad baby bottom, monkey torso, dog head for a Mountain Dew spot.
  • Celeb-ration: From Alec Baldwin, Steve Harvey, to Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen, there was an onslaught of famous faces during the commercials. Take this highly-praised spot for Avocados From Mexico, created by Austin-based creative agency GSD&M, which featured “Happy Days” actor, Scott Baio. Another fun spot featured celebrity recording artist Janelle Monae paying homage to iconic songs in this pre-half time show spot for Pepsi.
  • Autos in the driver’s seat: It’s no surprise to see car ads during the Super Bowl, but brands like Hyundai and Prius captured the audience’s attention and sent a buzz through social media. Christopher Walken also made an appearance for Kia in this ad from creative agency, David & Goliath.
  • New Advertisers Taking the Plunge: As you’d expect, the Super Bowl featured many established brands, Budweiser, Doritos alongside big-name soda brands. What surprised us this year were the first-time brands who paid big dollars to get in front of a huge, captive audience, especially tech brands. From PayPal to SoFi (an online lending start up), to Bai, Amazon, LG Electronics SunTrust Banks and even pharma companies there were many first-timers who entered the game.

We also noted that while the Super Bowl ads certainly entertained, the more lofty commercials that look at the human condition were in short supply. We’ve come to expect these kinds of cinematic and inspirational ads from brands such as Coca-Cola. Instead, the brand ran a commercial featuring the Incredible Hulk and Ant-Man arguing over a ‘mini’ can of soda. A far cry from the rousing ads and motivating messages they’ve typically delivered.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing marketing moments of Super Bowl 50 was not scripted by any adverting agency. When asked what the future held, Peyton Manning replied he was looking forward to drinking, “a lot of Budweiser.” The twice repeated reference was PR gold; a hero’s endorsement in the golden moment.

Today, Madison Avenue, much like the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos, will take a collective step back to debate what worked and what didn’t. They’ll go over every move along their journey to discern the right moves from the wrong ones. If there’s one theme they all share – it’s that they went big and gave it their all.  Stay tuned…the story continues next year.

Posted on February 8, 2016, in The Hit Board. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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