Super Bowl Sunday is the biggest event in the US sporting calendar as two great teams go head-to-head in one of sports greatest tournaments.
At least that’s how the sports fans bill it.
For the rest of the world – and many Americans – the Super Bowl is one of the biggest branded entertainment events in the global calendar.
Buoyed by a legacy of iconic and memorable advertising: Apple’s 1984, Terry Tate: Office Linebacker, Budweiser’s Whassup, VW’s The Force, Snickers Betty White and Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, the Super Bowl is as much about the entertainment as the game.
“The Super Bowl has become much more than something only football fans dream about for the entirety of the season. Super Bowl Sunday is now more than just a game; it’s an experience for all." says Analyst Pam Goodfellow.
This annual extravaganza has become one of the biggest branded entertainment events in the global calendar.
From the celebrity who belts out the national anthem, to the Pepsi half-time show, to the endless stream of sponsors and advertiser brands pushing their message to viewers, the Super Bowl is a big deal.
2016’s Super Bowl was no exception, as the event celebrated its 50 birthday it was expected to deliver an audience of 189 million, up from last year’s 1.14 million.
A big audience brings a big price tag with advertisers shelling out $5 million for a 30-second spot.
At that eye-watering cost it is no surprise that so many brands embrace teaser and seeding campaigns to maximize their exposure and drive engagement around their ads. All of which adds more weight to the entertainment factor of the event.
However make no mistakes, the Super Bowl is not Cannes or D&AD, this is not about craft or technique, this is about entertaining the masses. That is what big game advertising is all about.
For many brands, it’s more about turning up and many brands benefit from the huge publcitiy that comes from buying a sought after spot during the coverage.However, publicity is not enough, obviously it needs to be memorable and effective.
The Super Bowl advertising formula is pretty simple, it’s all about good old-fashioned American entertainment.
Entertain the masses on game day. Make them laugh, make them cry and make them feel proud to be American. None of that fancy stuff, just create a big ad for the big game.
The recent trend towards emotive storytelling was abandoned for Super Bowl 50, this year was all about big game ads.
Here’s a look at how things went down.
GO BIG OR GO HOME
The Super Bowl is a big deal, which requires a big budget and a big name to front an ad. This year was no exception, which some of Hollywood’s finest appearing in ads.
Hyundai went the extra mile providing three ads for the game: one for the blokes starring Kevin Hart, one for the ladies starring Ryan Reynolds and a third ad starring the bear from The Revenant (it was him right?)
Amazon’s first big game commercial starred Alec Baldwin, Dan Marino, Jason Schwartzman and Missy Elliot and Mini rolled out Serena Williams, Harvey Keitel, Tony Hawk, Randy Johnson, T-Pain and Abby Wambach with an ad which urged viewers to Defy Titles.
Snickers satisfied with Willem Defoe playing a Grumpy Marilyn Monroe in that scene from the iconic The Seven Year Itch for the latest installment of the 'You're Not You When You're Hungry', Anthony Hopkins gave a strong performance in an otherwise lackluster ad for Turbotax.com, and even Liam Neeson couldn’t save LG’s dull Man From The Future commercial.
MAKE THEM PROUD TO BE AMERICAN
Super Bowl is all about America and many advertisers go for good old-fashioned patriotism to win over the masses. Bud Light led the charge with a crowd pleaser starring Amy Schumer and Seth Rogen guaranteed to get the crowd a hollering and a whooping, Jeep took a more sentimental and quiet approach to the Super Bowl with its proud, all American ad, and Budweiser abandoned the puppies and emotional storytelling to create a big American ad for the big game
MAKE THEM SING
Musical ads were a big hit in 2016 as brands jostled to get the crowds singing and laughing along with their ads.
Jeff Goldblum played a floating piano in Apartments.com’s big ad full of in-jokes and references for US audiences, Honda delivered a herd of sheep singing Queen's greatest hits, and Seal led a choir of Super Bowl babies (kids that are born 9 months after a Super Bowl) in an ad celebrating Super Bowl 50.
MAKE THEM LAUGH
Toyota delivered a cracking ad for the Prius with Car Chase, an ad that riffed off all the insults and stereotypes people apply to the car, Avocados From Mexico entertained with a great futuristic spot featuring Scott Baio and Mountain Dew’s bizarre #PuppyMonkeyBaby was certain to delight its target market.
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ANIMATION
Super Bowl 50 delivered a new trend with the animated big game ad. Coca-Cola enlisted the Hulk and Ant Man for a high energy ad to promote the new Coke Mini cans, Wix.com teamed with DreamWorks Animation to create a KungFu Panda themed ad, which pays homage to some of the Super Bowl’s greatest ads and Pikachu and company turned up for Pokemon, which celebrated the video game’s birthday with its first Super Bowl ad.
With the huge audience and awareness the Super Bowl offers, a number of brands sieze the opportunity to generate awareness for social movements and charity messages.
Helen Mirren fronted an anti Drink Driving ad from Budweiser called Give A Damn while Colgate asked Americans to turn off the tap while brushing teeth as part of its Every Drop Counts campaign. Sadly I imagine both probably failed to strike a light with audiences. The target audience for Budweiser's ad are hardly likely to listen to Mirren, while Colgate's message while well meaning requires concentrated viewing to really sink in.
BEST OF THE SUPER BOWL 2016
Heinz - Weiner Stampede
Sausage Dogs in hot dog costumes running towards people dressed as ketchup bottles – what’s not to love here? Heinz nailed their Super Bowl ad. This ad appeals to all groups and serves as an entertaining reminder that hot dogs need condiments. Perfect for game day.
3. Doritos - Ultrasound
Doritos “Crashed the Super Bowl” for the 10th and final time and it certainly went out with a hit with Ultrasound. This hilarious ad was clever and creepy all at the same time. The response to the ad has been polarising, with some finding it creepy and others loving the quirky humour. This is a perfect addition to Doritos collection of irreverent advertising and is guaranteed to appeal to lovers of the brand and attract new ones. Entertaining and memorable, a superb Super Bowl spot.
2. Kia – Walken Closet
Any ad starring Christopher Walken is bound to be a success and this spot for Kia is a strong contender. The “Walken Closet” gag is good but the sentiment is even better. It takes bravery to accept that people might believe your brand is the beige socks of the car market, but with its new model Kia hopes to challenge that perception. In fact, it aims to blow that perception out of the ballpark with its new sporty sedan. The car is flashy and as Walken says, “It’s like the world’s most exciting pair of socks”. This is a great spot, it’s well executed with a strong strategy. And, of course, it has a superb performance by Christopher Walken.
1. Audi R8 - Commander
Audi took us to the moon with a soaring big game ad made all the more poignant for its perfect use of David Bowie’s ‘Starman’. This touching ad follows a former astronaut on his final journey behind the wheels of the futuristic looking Audi R8. While comparing driving the new model car to commanding a space shuttle is a bold message, but it's one that Audi can back up. The strategy for this ad is clear, this car is all about exhilaration, excitement and the idea of not only owning the future, but driving it. It is exhilarating, heart warming and feel good, all at the same time. This is a really great ad, it is superbly made with a strong strategy and a great choice of music. Audi has created a great Super Bowl ad, the use of Bowie's starman nudges it from great to excellent.