This past weekend was Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Arguably the biggest sporting event of the year, the “big game” drew 102 million viewers. Looking back on previous Super Bowls, some certainly stick out more than others. The same can be said for another aspect of the Super Bowl, my favorite part to watch every year, the commercials. Some are amazing and memorable and reach iconic status for decades to come. My favorite in this category would be the talking baby E-Trade commercials that began in 2007. Others totally miss their mark and leave viewers wondering how a company could throw away that much money on an ad that is boring, un-funny or confusing. (This year’s ads cost up to $5.6 million per 30 seconds.)
Super Bowl LIV’s commercials were star-studded with several big-name cameos like Rainn Wilson, Chris Rock, Post Malone, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Murray. Most went the humorous route as so many of their predecessors have. Others went the emotional route. Like Google’s “Loretta” ad that featured an elderly man using Google to learn “how not to forget.” Or Budweiser’s “Typical American” spot, which listed American stereotypes while contrasting them with inspirational video clips. Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg each ran a campaign advertisement. Spending a cool $10 million apiece for the first campaign ads to air nationally during the Super Bowl since 1989.
There are so many ways to evaluate Super Bowl commercials. Some are just funny, some are dramatic, some deal with incredibly important topics. For simplicity’s sake, I’m focusing entirely on whether or not these commercials had everyone at my Super Bowl party either laughing or silently enthralled.
Here are my choices for the top five Super Bowl commercials of 2020:
5. Michelob, ULTRA Pure Gold 6 for 6-Pack
This advertisement was an announcement of a new initiative by the brand to transition six square feet of farmland to organic for every six-pack of the beer that consumers purchase. The ad had great visuals and demonstrated a brand purpose that seemed appropriate and genuine. Well done, Michelob.
4. Hyundai, Smaht Pahk
This ad featured Massachusetts-born celebrities Chris Evans, John Krasinski and Rachel Dratch and Boston sports legend David Ortiz. The 60-second skit cleverly uses the stereotypical “Pahk ya cah” Boston accent to explain the Hyundai Sonata’s new Remote Smart Parking System. The accents were authentic, the acting was good. Maybe this is my regional bias showing, but I thought this ad was an all-around crowd-pleaser that also showed off some impressive technology.
3. Rocket Mortgage, Jason Momoa
Jason Momoa stars in this commercial as he gets home to unwind and slowly removes the muscles off his body to reveal an incredibly skinny, bald guy underneath. It sounds very strange, but it definitely had everyone laughing at its absurdity. And it had sticking power – people will remember that commercial for a long time.
2. Fox, Super Monday
This bold advertisement called for a national holiday the day after the Super Bowl called “Super Monday,” and offered those who took the day off and tweeted #SuperMonday the opportunity to win $10,000. I loved the fact that the ad had a call to action. And, I really enjoyed how well-acted and funny it was. It follows an energetic narrator campaigning for the new “holiday” trailed by Paul Liberstein who is channeling his character, Toby, from The Office – a dreary, soft-spoken fun killer. The ad showed off all of Fox’s current programming in a way that flowed well and had great comedic timing.
1. Hulu, Tom Brady
The marketing masters over at Hulu really outdid themselves with this ad. Pulling off an impressive combined social media and television campaign that cashed in on TB12’s ability to dominate headlines with the uncertainty of his future in the NFL. A week ahead of the Super Bowl, Brady posted an incredibly cryptic and provocative photo. The photo, which was speculated in sports media all week, showed him walking into (or out of) a stadium –perhaps signaling his retirement? Nope, this was all a ploy orchestrated by Hulu that began as a fake announcement from Brady and pivoted into a commercial for the streaming service’s live TV offerings. Even after the campaign had been exposed as a mock retirement, the internet continued to buzz about the fact that “even when the Patriots aren’t in the Super Bowl, you can’t get rid of Tom Brady.” Genius.
So, how did the 2020 Super Bowl commercials measure up?
These commercials had incredibly high production values, they were creative and entertaining. They played once during the national broadcast, then went viral and were re-posted, shared and even blogged about. Despite investing millions into Super Bowl ad buys, many companies will see huge ROI through the residual media coverage and social media engagement around their commercials. More than just ads, these buys can serve as a real catalyst for brand awareness and achieving cultural relevance.
The one advertisement that was most impactful isn’t something new. It really got me thinking about the power of delivering an effective message on such as big stage in the form of a publicity stunt that unfolds in real-time. It was the four words that Patrick Mahomes said to the crowd after winning MVP, “I’m going to Disney World.” This iconic phrase, which has been said by Super Bowl MVPs since 1987, is almost as much of a tradition as the game itself and has been more influential for the Disney World brand than any commercial could ever be.
The phrase received extra attention this year after a tweet from 2013 surfaced in which Mahomes stated it must feel great to say those words. Disney then amplified this story with its announcement of a $1 million dollar donation to Make-A-Wish in honor of Mahome’s performance.
After giving this all some thought it became clear that in the battle over America’s biggest advertising night, Disney is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers.