Tackling Super Bowl Ads: The Best and the Worst

Well, we broke the record for the most-watched program in U.S. television history on Sunday. Kansas City’s victory over San Francisco averaged 123.4 million viewers across TV and streaming services – which is a 7% increase from last year’s game. While the game itself was worth the watch, (only the second Super Bowl game to ever make it into overtime) watching brands fight for viewers’ attention in a $7 million, 0:30-second commercial spot also proved worthwhile.

There were some really good ads this year, and there were some that missed the mark. Through the spots that made us laugh and the ones that made us cringe, we’ve identified three main takeaways from this year’s Super Bowl commercial lineup that are important to understand as we look at the marketing landscape as a whole:

1. Super Bowl spots are FINALLY a part of a broader marketing strategy

Yes, these Super Bowl commercial spots are not cheap. BUT – brands are taking the opportunity and the content to the next level and integrating it into a larger marketing strategy. From posting teasers prior to the Super Bowl commercial launch to selling commercial merchandise, these campaigns are much larger than we’ve ever seen.

2. The year of celebrities – go big or go home 

Celebrities made an appearance in more than 50% of all Super Bowl commercials this year. As we have seen celebrity and influencer endorsements become more prevalent in the marketing scene, it’s no surprise to see more and more influential faces appear in brands ads. With the commercial spot already being a pretty steep investment, brands have no choice but to go big or go home. Offering that familiar face allows viewers to instantly be engaged in the ad – regardless of the creative strategy of the ad itself. Let’s not forget that it’s important for brands to choose the RIGHT celebrity to make an effective impact…

3. Brands take a hard pass on political & ideological messages 

In 2020’s Super Bowl, Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg had election campaign ads – in addition, many brands actually chose to take a stand on polarizing issues like gun violence, homelessness, and even the NFL themselves airing an ad addressing the death of Corey Jones, who was the retired cousin of a retired NFL player shot dead by a police offer in 2015. It seems big name brands chose to steer clear of politically-motivated ads for good reason. According to our 2023 consumer study, Health & Wellness Reimagined: A Guide for Brands to Create Stronger Connections, consumers are less likely to purchase from a brand or use its services if the brand publicly shares its political affiliations or opinions. However, some political and religious organizations jumped at the opportunity to amplify ideological messages to the record-setting viewership. 

The Best

The DunKings | Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’s 2024 Super Bowl ad was a strong build off their Super Bowl last year starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez – and let’s be honest, the boy band was a nice touch. This year’s ad was full of special celebrity features, including THE Tom Brady, making it the perfect celebrity fruit salad. Dunkin’ is killing the game as far as making these memorable year over year and feeding viewers with extended DunKings content including offering more footage on social media and even selling DunKing merch online.

Can’t B Broken – Beyonce | Verizon

They call her Queen Bey for a reason. Verizon leaned into using their Super Bowl spot as an opportunity to create a much larger campaign as they released two teaser ads on the Thursday and Friday leading up to the Super Bowl referencing Beyonce’s music and album art – leading many viewers to speculate Beyonce making an appearance in a Super Bowl ad. While Beyonce fans were busy lighting up social media with potential theories, Verizon was probably sitting back enjoying the pre-Super Bowl hype. Sure enough, Beyonce appeared in Verizon’s Super Bowl commercial spot, and shortly after, dropped two new tracks along with an announcement for her upcoming album, Renaissance Act II – Did she break the internet yet? Spoiler alert… yes.

Hard Knocks | Dove

While Dove has always strived to maintain consistent body positivity messaging in their ads, this year’s Super Bowl commercial dug a little deeper into young women and sports. We loved how Dove was able to keep this ad lighthearted and fun while still addressing a much larger issue – finding this balance allowed the ad to be so impactful. Even more so, while women have always watched the Super Bowl, it certainly felt like Dove took advantage of the opportunity to reach the Swiftie demographic that was tuning in to see Taylor cheer on her boyfriend’s team.

Like a Good Neighbaaaa | State Farm

Let’s be real, insurance isn’t fun – but State Farm accepted that challenge and proved us wrong as they had Arnold Schwarzenger as their newest State Farm agent. While the ad plays off Schwarzenger’s inability to pronounce the word “neighbor,” due to his thick accent, State Farm took the opportunity to reunite him with his Twin, Danny DeVito. This ad almost acts as a subtle hint to the possibility that these two may reunite together on the big screen. Overall, this ads concept was as simple as re-cementing State Farm’s slogan with some of the most beloved actors in the scene – showing that sometimes you don’t need to over engineer creativity to make something great.

Michael CeraVe | CeraVe

CeraVe’s Super Bowl commercial offered the conclusion of the story after a week full of social media teasers. Michael Cera has been popping up in CeraVe content in the weeks prior – alluding Cera to be linked to CeraVe somehow. With the perfect celebrity crossover, CeraVe was able to build the hype prior to the commercial being aired, capture the attention of viewers during the commercial, and driving buzz after. For CeraVe’s first time advertising at the Super Bowl… job well done.

The Worst

Shop like a Billionaire | Temu

Oof. Not only did Temu invest heavily into Super Bowl advertising, the ad itself could not have been worse. On top of purchasing three ads during the game and two after, Temu is also offering up $15 million in coupons and giveaways. All of this aggressive ad spend, with priority on increasing market-share and less on profit, has actually been successful for online retailers like Amazon and Wayfair in the past. Despite their Super Bowl ads being, well… the way they were – their heavy investment does seem to be paying off as web searches for Temu in the US spiked during the game and Temu became the second most downloaded free app on the Monday after the Super Bowl.

Less Social Media, More Snapchat | Snapchat

This one hurt. Snapchat’s message in their ad was, “less social media, more Snapchat.” We have recently seen some of the nation’s top social media executives, including Snapchat, face intense questioning from families who’ve experienced some of the first-hand consequences of social media and its effect on the mental health of our nation’s youth. While Snapchat seemed to be trying to disassociate themselves from other social media platforms in their Super Bowl ad due to heat from recent congressional pressure to regulate such platforms, it came across as disingenuous. Sure, Snapchat does have unique features that make it different from other social media apps, like Instagram. But in a landscape where they are currently under persecution for not protecting kids from exploitation and abuse – it seems as if Snapchat could have taken a different approach to get their message across.

Nerd’s Gummy | Nerds

If you’ve ever had Nerd Gummies, you know that these things are no joke. They are SO good. But it just felt like the ad did not do these little candies justice! While it felt like Addison Rae’s guest appearance was a good example of effectively using a familiar face to match the target audience – in this case, Gen Z. Knowing that Rae was not a cheap addition to the spot, we certainly feel like they could have used her more effectively. Will certainly still be a frequent Nerd’s Gummy purchaser though 🙂

Kick of Destiny | FanDuel

It’s a bummer that Gronk missed the mark – and we are not just referring to his 25-yard field goal attempt… twice. This ad was… weird, was it not? Maybe it was the unfortunate passing of Carl Weathers that made it feel weird, but it left us feeling… well… weird.

Life is a Ball | Lindt

Lindt’s Super Bowl ad is a good example of how, despite the ad being visually appealing, the lack of a celebrity endorsement in an environment like the Super Bowl, isn’t enough to make a lasting impression on viewers. We think this ad concept in general has a lot of potential, it might have made a larger impact if, let’s say, Morgan Freeman made an appearance 🙂 

American Values 2024 | Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

While Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was the only presidential candidate to take advantage of the 123.4 million Super Bowl viewers, it seemed as if the remake of the 1960 John F. Kennedy commercial wasn’t the move. Not only did the political slogans and jingle feel like they came out of left field – but it seemed to cause more drama between the already estranged Kennedy family.

Until next year

Football fan or not, the Super Bowl will continue to grip the nation and remain one of the largest stages to watch brands compete to get the attention of viewers. 2024 was the year for celebrities – brands that missed this memo fell short. We also saw brands go big or go home and not just invest in a Super Bowl commercial spot, but actually invest in a full-on marketing campaign that went beyond 0:30-seconds. 

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