This image provided by PepsiCo shows the Starry 2024 Super Bowl NFL football spot. (PepsiCo via `)
By WYATTE GRANTHAM PHILIPS
NEW YORK – The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers in this year's Super Bowl – and off the field, big-name advertisers competed for viewers' attention with prominent, glittering messages.
Beyoncé once again caused a stir on the internet with a Verizon ad, which was soon followed by a viral music drop. Lionel Messi showed his obvious loyalty to Michelob Ultra. And T-Mobile, elf Cosmetics, Uber Eats and more hosted a series of mini-TV show reunions that brought together cast members from “Suits” to “Friends.”
Despite it being an election year in the US, there was little to see on Sunday other than an ad from American Values 2024, the super PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s presidential candidacy. A 30-second spot ran in a retro style that drew on his family's heritage. Kennedy launched his independent bid for the White House last year.
Airing a Super Bowl commercial is no easy task. In addition to the reported $7 million price tag for a 30-second spot during the game, brands are hiring the biggest actors, investing in jaw-dropping special effects and trying to put together a commercial that will be liked — or at least remembered — by more than 100 million expected viewers.
“Advertisers are doing everything they can to cut through the clutter this year,” said Northwestern University marketing professor Tim Calkins. “They’re pulling out all the stops.”
On Sunday, numerous advertisers used light humor and nostalgia to inject a mostly “feel good” energy into game breaks. However, there were also a few serious and dark moments.
Here's a rundown of what commercial watchers saw in Super Bowl LVIII.
Kris Jenner is “spinning it” with Oreo. The face behind Pringles' iconic mustache is none other than Chris Pratt. And Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez returned for Dunkin' appearances.
In typical Super Bowl fashion, various companies' advertisements were star-studded – often with numerous celebrities in a single spot. T-Mobile, for example, featured big names like Bradley Cooper, Common, Jennifer Hudson, Laura Dern and “Suits” stars Gabriel Macht and Patrick J. Adams in an ad for its Magenta Status customer review program.
And Suits' homecoming didn't end there. In another ad filled with celebrity cameos — including “Judge Judy” Judy Sheindlin — eleven Cosmetics brought together Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty in a courtroom parody.
NBC sitcoms had some reunion moments during the game. In an Uber Eats ad that shows people forgetting things so they remember that Uber Eats can deliver a wide variety of items, Jennifer Aniston appears to forget that she ever met her “Friends” co-star David Schwimmer worked together. And in an ad for Mtn Dew Baja Blast, Aubrey Plaza says she can have fun at anything — including reuniting with her “Parks and Rec” boss Nick Offerman while they fly kites.
While star power in Super Bowl commercials is nothing new, it felt particularly strong this year.
“There used to be a celebrity pop-up who was kind of the spokesperson for the commercial,” said Jessica D. Collins of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter. “Now you see celebrity collaborations… all in the same commercial, even if they have absolutely nothing to do with each other.”
Some brands can do this in clever ways—for example, by leveraging pop culture moments and inside jokes. But experts say over-the-top celebrity cameos can undermine the effectiveness of the ad. Viewers may remember which stars they saw in a commercial, but not the brand name, notes Linli Xu, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.
Cuteness and nostalgia
It wouldn't be the Super Bowl without a few furry friends. Budweiser, for example, brought back familiar characters to its game day slot – showing Clydesdales and a Labrador Retriever teaming up to help the beer brand deliver. And the “Mayo Cat” was on display at Hellmann’s.
But the year's ads were underwhelming, noted Kimberly Whitler, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business.
But that didn't stop advertisers from looking for other ways into viewers' hearts.
“Everything old is new again,” she said, pointing to successful Super Bowl ads or messages from the past that returned, including ETrade’s talking babies.
The 1980s also made a comeback, Whitler noted, as both T-Mobile and Nerds played the theme song from “Flashdance” while the mullet took center stage in Kawasaki's spot.
It's close to our hearts
Both Collins and Calkins said Google's spot was among their favorites. The ad followed a blind man using Guided Frame – Google's AI-powered accessibility feature for the Pixel camera, which uses a combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations and tactile vibrations – to create images of people and places inside him to make life.
The spot was a “perfect balance of emotion and showcasing a product benefit,” Collins said, adding that she appreciated how Google shined a spotlight on an audience that isn't always noticed. “No celebrities, (and it) just showed what a totally real family could have been. I liked it very well.”
Xu also pointed to Dove's ad about how a lack of body confidence causes girls to quit sports.
“It's a powerful message,” she said, and is in line with Dove's previous campaigns dedicated to body positivity.
SOME SERIOUS MOMENTS
Several other ads had a more serious tone. For example, Robert Kraft's Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism ran an ad featuring Martin Luther King Jr.'s speechwriter, Dr. Clarence B Jones.
“He Gets Us” also returned to the Super Bowl this year. The campaign, backed by a group of wealthy Christian donors, aired two commercials Sunday evening.
` business reporter Mae Anderson contributed to this report.