Written by Brittany Prats & Lily Donegan
Edited by Allison Herrera
Growing up, I always watched the Super Bowl – not because I was a football fan, but because I was a fan of the commercials. Every year, I would look forward to new commercials while re-watching my favorite from the year before. This year, more than 102 million people watched the Super Bowl…that’s huge! The Super Bowl is one of the largest draws to the television all year. This got me thinking – how much do these companies spit out just for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl?
The average price for a slot during the Super Bowl in 2021 was $5.5 million, which is lower than last year’s price, $5.6. Considering that’s just for the slot, you have to factor in the price of the commercial itself. The writers, directors, staff, sets/locations, etc…not to mention any animation, CGI or, most importantly, a cameo from some of the biggest stars of the time. We guesstimate that’s around another $5 million (give or take to say the least), which makes the total cost for a Super Bowl ad around $10.5 million. Spending that much money for just 30-seconds of screen time is absolutely mindboggling. But, his year, a couple of long time Super Bowl advertisers decided not to pull out of Super Bowl commercial spots.
Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi, and Hyundai all decided not to purchase ads during Super Bowl LV. Budweiser decided not to purchase an ad and, instead, donated the money they would have otherwise spent to families affected by COVID-19. Coke decided not to purchase an ad to make sure they were “investing in the right resources during these unprecedented times.” Pepsi itself did not have a commercial, but they did sponsor the halftime show. Finally, Hyundai decided not to buy a spot because their “marketing priorities” didn’t line up.
These big named companies taking a step back from the Super Bowl gave smaller companies an opportunity to get their names out there, such as Oatly, Fiverr, and Guaranteed Rate. This might have led to how lackluster a majority of the ads were this year.
My three least favorite Super Bowl commercials:
- Oatly – “Wow No Cow”
- Possibly the simplest commercial this year
- The ad had the CEO of the company sitting in a field of grain playing a keyboard singing “Wow No Cow” for the duration of the commercial
- Simply uninteresting
- Rockstar Energy – Lil Baby is a Rockstar
- It was just to flex Lil Baby… nothing else, no entertainment, no comedy
- They attempted to be inspirational but I think they missed the mark
- Helman – “Fair Godmayo”
- So much love for Amy Schumer, but this ad was not it
- It wasn’t terrible (like giggle funny), but not what I was expecting from a comedy queen like Amy Schumer
While many of the ads this year were not up to par, there were a few good ones; some touching, some reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic, and some that just wanted to take our minds off the rough time we’ve all been through. They all displayed a message, even if many of them did not align with the brand exactly or didn’t portray it in the best way. With that being said, let’s talk about the few good ones.
My top three Super Bowl commercials:
- Toyota – Jessica Long’s Story
- Toyota chose a different approach for their Super Bowl commercial this year
- Instead of promoting their cars or showing why they are better than other car brands, they decided to push out the message that there are hope and strength in all of us
- Jessica Long is a 13-time Paralympic gold medalist who had her legs amputated at a young age
- The commercial displays her story by showing her swimming with an overlapping voiceover of the phone conversation from when her parents first found out they were able to adopt her
- The commercial shows the strength that both Jessica and her parents have, and encourages the viewers to keep that same hope and strength because with that they can overcome anything
- I particularly like this commercial because it made me cry. I love a good tear-jerking commercial that really pulls at the heartstrings of the viewer
- I also thought that this commercial was well executed and while it wouldn’t have made me more likely to buy a Toyota, it definitely made their messaging and brand values clear
- Frito-Lay – ‘Twas the Night Before the Super Bowl
- I don’t know about you, but commercials with football players are always my favorite
- The whole idea behind this commercial is genius but having legendary NFL players made it even better
- Everyone knows and loves the Manning family, so having them kick it off was probably my favorite part and the best choice Frito-Lay could have made
- They weren’t pushing the chips down your throat but they were subtly mentioning them and bringing them into the story to make you remember them
- Having the players wear pajamas with the chips on them and having them eat a certain one throughout the story was great for brand awareness and making sure the product is seen
- No matter what team you root for, you could enjoy all of the well-known players in this commercial
- I also just think that this was a super funny commercial that kept me wanting more
- Frito-Lay always has amazing commercials, but this one really scored a touchdown in my books
- Cheetos – It Wasn’t Me
- From the second the commercial started, I knew I would love it. How could you not love a commercial starring Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, and Shaggy?
- The commercial featured Mila Kunis eating Cheetos, but when Ashton Kutcher catches her she quotes the song “It Wasn’t Me”
- This commercial had me non stop laughing and definitely aligned with the brand
- The whole idea behind the commercial was that “Cheeto fingers” are hard to hide and because of that Mila had to hide her fingers and say it wasn’t her
- This commercial honestly was just really funny and was a nice break from everything going on in the world right now
- I think a big part of Super Bowl commercials is that they’re supposed to make you laugh
- I don’t think Cheetos was really worried about explaining what their product is considering everyone knows Cheetos, so putting this spin on it was well done
After watching all of the Super Bowl commercials (some good and some not so good), there’s one that undeniably tops every list. Two Words: Vince Lombardi. The NFL used a unique Super Bowl commercial & paid special tribute to one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. Vince Lombardi led the Green Bay Packers to three straight Super Bowl wins, with a total of five Super Bowl wins in seven years. Lombardi had such an impact on the game that the Super Bowl trophy was named in his honor. He wanted to bring his team together to rise above hardships, which is appropriate if we fast-forward to today. Lombardi was best known for his several impactful speeches, which have been famously quoted since. The NFL displayed this through their incredible commercial that was uniquely integrated into the game as well. The commercial featured one of Lombardi’s famous speeches and shows him walking through today’s America.
Vince Lombardi passed away in the 70s, so seeing and hearing him in the present day was a shock for football fans across the country. With the use of CGI, the NFL was able to mirror his walk, his smile, the tip of his hat, and every other movement that portrayed him. The NFL used a mixture of past footage of Lombardi, along with proprietary face-swapping technology to create a lifelike image of the late coach. At the end of the commercial, it cuts to the present (as to when the commercial first aired) inside of the stadium, with players and fans inside. We see Coach Lombardi standing there, reciting his famous lines, “It’s not whether we get knocked down, but whether we get back up…as one.” The stadium went silent, as I’m sure the viewers watching from home did as well.
This unique ad gave a different feeling to the game and created some reflection within the fans and players, making everyone remember the real reason why the game is played. Hearing a famous speech from a beloved coach in the moments right before the biggest game of such an unprecedented season made everyone stop for a second and feel a certain way. At this point, it wasn’t about whether you were rooting for the Chiefs or the Bucs, but it focused on coming together to make the Super Bowl all possible.
We almost weren’t able to even have a football season, but because we rose above as one, as Lombardi would have wanted, we were able to come to this ending. This commercial without the in-game portion was touching and heart wrenching enough, but adding that in-game portion and bringing someone who is so loved into our living rooms was really unique.
This style of CGI has been seen before with musical acts like Michael Jackson and Prince at award shows, but never with something as impactful and shocking as Lombardi’s speech. The speech was so much more than a typical Super Bowl ad, it was a reflection of the time we’re going through now, and that connection to the present-day was an unexpected, but beautiful tribute to the late Lombardi and an on-brand message during the most important football game of the year.
Watch the ad here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SilS_vq4XOw
Overall, the Super Bowl is a Marketer’s dream. The goal is to have ad spots that people will remember, and many companies did that. Some were good and some weren’t great, but overall it wasn’t a terrible year for Super Bowl ads. It was a weird year; and with not much preparation time, limited staff, and limited funds, we applaud those companies that got it done.