From piano performances by the Oatly CEO to Cardi B’s TikTok dances, the Buccaneers win at the 2021 SuperBowl wasn’t the only huge takeaway of the night: once again, the commercials aired during this year’s football game were unforgettable, with over 55 advertisers and 67 commercials that brought in over 6.3 billion ad impressions and 64 billion social media impressions. While this year’s commercial spots came with a shocking $5.5 million price tag for a 30-second airing time, many original brands like Budweiser, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi did not put out big brand commercials and said they had opted into donating their marketing budgets to COVID-19 donation centers instead. However, the performative actions of these big brands were short-lived, as Budweiser still ran ads for their sub-companies such as their Spiked Seltzers. However, an untraditional SuperBowl event came with its perks too, as over 19 first-time advertisers, like Mercari, Indeed, Vrooms, and Doordash, were able to secure commercial spots. Shifts in consumer behavior amid lockdowns ushered SuperBowl commercials this year into promoting inclusivity, nostalgia, and support of small businesses--moving away from big brand companies.
While the extravagant feel to the Superbowl was absent this year, as cardboard cut-outs filled most of the stadium, the commercials were still entertaining and unique. Coming from someone who unapologetically watches the Superbowl for the ads, rather than the teams, here, in our opinion, are some of the best produced and widely consumed commercials we saw this weekend:
Bud Light’s “Lemon of a Year”
When life gives you lemons, Bud Light turns it into a Super Bowl Commercial on their latest Lemonade Spiked Seltzers. Their minute-long commercial showcased a storm of lemons plummeting a city, screaming pedestrians, and subtle nods to the racial injustice and democratic insurgencies that have happened this year. They were able to perfectly embody the sentiments of this chaotic 2020 without making the commercial centered too much around the current reality of things. Their blend of surrealism and realism, with a side of comedy, allowed viewers to not only connect with the message of the commercial on a personal level but also chuckle at the twist on when life gives you lemons.
State Farm: Drake from StateFarm
While this Superbowl employed a new way of curating commercials, this clip still brought in the age-old, yet highly successful, usage of celebrity cameos within their ads. With the commercial guest-starring singer Drake, quarterbacks Patrick Mahones and Aaron Rodgers, State Farm was able to close the gap between the world of advertising and the reality happening in the stadium. By spicing up their already traditional “Jake from StateFarm” branding, the commercial’s fun play on words with Drake leading the clip, and the football players taking a break from the field, makes this commercial an extremely memorable one.
While there were some commercial successes, there were also some that felt less so:
NFL’s Inspire Change
This commercial centered around the NFL's efforts in combating racism, and displaying efforts to donate portions of money to help promote anti-racism initiatives. However, their recent controversies of reprimanding players for taking peaceful stances against the organization’s systemic racism made this message more performative and superficial than influential. The drawbacks of these commercials are that they felt too disconnected from reality, which critics mentioned was a crucial factor in displaying a successful commercial this year. While the ad helped as a stepping stone in the eventual rebranding of the NFL, its marketing impact on consumers was more of a backlash than a success.
Another commercial that flopped this year was Oatly’s CEO sing-along: the 30-second clip featured the CEO of the company in a meadow of oats singing alone a tune while playing along on an electric piano. There was no dialogue, no storyline, and no other characters involved, leaving the viewers confused about the true message of the commercial, and without a catchy tune stuck in their head, as the commercial received backlash on the singing ability of the CEO himself. While this commercial failed to step out of the commercial tactics that used to work and employ new ones related to 2021, the failure of it ended up being somewhat of a blessing for the company, as Oatly memes on the CEO’s voice started to trend across Twitter.
From the good, bad, and ugly, the Superbowl commercials this year reminded us that despite the challenges faced in 2021, the world of digital marketing continues to evolve amidst a rapidly evolving consumer and buyer base.