NEW YORK — Big advertisers will pull out all the stops on Super Bowl Sunday — casting A-list actors, investing in dazzling special effects and, they hope, getting some laughs while seeking to win over viewers during the breaks.
In an increasingly fragmented and polarized media environment – and with fewer people watching live television – the Super Bowl is an anomaly. Viewership for the big game has actually increased, with a record 115.1 million watching last year.
So marketers will use the game Sunday, which will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+, to draw attention to new products, brand extensions and their marketing message as they once again compete for the eyes of more than 100 million viewers expected.
Almost to escape the divisive U.S. presidential election and deepening conflicts around the world, most Super Bowl announcers seem to be doubling down on fantasy or light humor, often with a dose of nostalgia and plenty of mini TV character reunions. .
“Seriousness is no longer possible,” said Kimberly Whitler, a marketing professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “Marketers have understood that entertainment, pleasure and escape are the key words of the advertising game.”
Many Super Bowl commercials have already aired. Here’s what we know ahead of this year’s big game.
Perhaps taking a cue from the success of last year’s PopCorners commercial that featured a reunion of “Breaking Bad” stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, this year there are a slew of mini-show reunions television in commercials.
T-Mobile, which has reunited Scrubs co-stars in Super Bowl commercials since 2022, teams up with Zach Braff and Donald Faison to sing a version of “Flashdance…What a Feeling,” featuring Jason Momoa – with a guest appearance from Jennifer Beals.
In a commercial filled with celebrity cameos — including “Judge Judy” Judy Sheindlin — elf cosmetics brought together “Suits” stars Gina Torres, Rick Hoffman and Sarah Rafferty in a courtroom parody.
NBC sitcoms feature many reunion moments during the game. In an Uber Eats commercial, which shows people forgetting things to remember that Uber Eats can deliver a wide variety of items, Jennifer Anniston appears to forget that she once worked with her “Friends” co-star, David Schwimmer.
In a commercial for Mtn Dew Baja Blast, Aubrey Plaza says she can have fun doing anything, including meeting up with her “Parks and Rec” boss Nick Offerman as they fly dragons.
And in an ad for Booking.com, Tina Fey hires doubles to stay in different accommodations because she has so many options on the site, including her “30 Rock” co-stars Jane Krakowski and Jack McBrayer.
Bringing together well-known TV show characters can help connect with audiences, said Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University.
“A younger, trendier silhouette might be more exciting, but might not have the awareness of those well-established characters,” he said. “Surprise is a key part of Super Bowl advertising, so unexpected reunions can work well.”
Humor and a touch of nostalgia are found in many advertisements. The Molson Coors commercial brings back its “Chill Train” which last appeared in commercials nearly two decades ago, in 2005. A tongue-in-cheek ad shows the train crashing into a football party to bring partygoers at Coors Light. LL Cool J turns out to be the conductor.
For Sofia Colucci, chief marketing officer at Molson Coors, which is advertising for the second year after Anheuser-Busch ended its decades-long exclusive sponsorship of the game, the Super Bowl is a unique place to reach customers existing ones and attract new ones.
“One of the things we really try to think about is making sure we retain and protect our core drinkers while also attracting new drinkers,” she said. “The Super Bowl is a huge stage where you have the opportunity to speak broadly to that audience.”
In another hijink-filled commercial, Doritos introduces its new Dinamita chips — the 24th year Doritos has advertised in the Super Bowl — by depicting two female grandmothers in a store with actress Jenna Ortega. They reveal their action prowess as they chase down “Top Gun: Maverick” actor Danny Ramirez, who has grabbed the last bag of chips from a store shelf.
Brett O’Brien, marketing director for Frito-Lay North America, says Dinamitas aims to reach a “young, multicultural audience” aged 16 to 24.
There are always tons of celebrities in commercials, and star power seems to increase every year.
“She’s a celebrity on steroids right now,” said Jessica D. Collins, of the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter. While that’s not necessarily new or surprising for the Super Bowl, she added, “it’s just going to be so heightened this year.”
That means big names like Arnold Schwarzenneger star in a State Farm commercial, Ice Spice makes an appearance for Starry, Christopher Walken faces impersonations of himself for BMW and headlines the Super Bowl Halftime Show, Usher, appears in an Uber Eats spot.
Many advertisements contain multiple celebrities. Beyond the TV show reunion, Michelob Ultra features soccer legend Lionel Messi, “Ted Lasso” star Jason Sudeikis and retired Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. BetMGM features Vince Vaughn, Tom Brady and Wayne Gretsky. And Paramount+ has a star-studded lineup, including Drew Barrymore, Sir Patrick Stewart and Creed.
Squarespace also hired a big name behind the camera, with Martin Scorcese directing his first Super Bowl commercial for the domain hosting site.
While star power is exciting, it’s always possible to overdo it. Advertisers can risk viewers remembering the stars they saw in an ad, but not the brand name, notes Linli Xu, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota.
A natural way for advertisers to feature celebrities is to choose a featured star who already has a connection to the brand, Collins said, or to tap into a recent moment in pop culture.
“A lot of times you’ll see a celebrity pop up and you’ll think, ‘This person would never have used this product.’ Why are they there?’ “, she said.
Of course, not all of this year’s Super Bowl commercials will be funny.
The Robert Kraft Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism announced it will air an ad featuring Martin Luther King Jr.’s speechwriter, Dr. Clarence B. Jones. Dove’s advertising emphasizes that low body confidence causes girls to quit sports. And Google’s thrilling ad follows a blind man as he uses ‘Guided Frame’ – Google’s AI-powered accessibility feature for the Pixel camera that uses a combination of audio cues, high-contrast animations and tactile vibrations – to take photos of people. and places of his life.
As always, there will still be a few surprises on match day. Some advertisers like Amazon have remained silent on any plans. Upstart e-commerce site Temu has reportedly purchased several listings. In a presidential election year, we may see a candidate announcement. And while there’s no indication that’s happening, many are wondering if advertisers will somehow capitalize on Taylor Swift’s buzz this year.
Whether or not she makes her way to the business side of the big game, marketers say advertisers are taking note of the “Taylor Swift effect” and trying to reach everyone, not just sports fans.
“We have people who have never watched football a day in their lives who are now watching the whole game – not just for the commercials, but for the game itself and for the celebrity sightings,” Collins said .
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