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The Best of Super Bowl LVIII Commercials

Three years ago the Super Bowl LV viewer ratings took a big downward decline, with the lowest ratings since 2007 and over 9 million fewer watchers than the previous year. The results were so surprising that some media outlets delayed reporting the statistics, providing them an opportunity to verify the numbers or at least create an acceptable menu of reasons for the decline. The game was not competitive; the pandemic-shortened season impacted fans’ enthusiasm; the half-time entertainment fell short of viewer expectations. True to the mantra that, “in time all things change,” this year’s Super Bowl LVIII set new records for viewership.

The 2024 contest between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers drew more than 123.4 million viewers, a record and new benchmark as the most-watched television program of all time in the United States. Free of the negative restrictions brought on by the aftermath of the pandemic, Super Bowl LVIII’s success story was a result of an extremely competitive game that went into overtime before the Chiefs were crowned champions. The improved viewership was also credited to the star-studded pre-game and half-time entertainment. The event also produced another record. The cost of a thirty-second commercial reached $7 million for brands that sought to wow viewers with commercials about respective wares.

After several years of what some critiqued as woeful attempts in Super Bowl advertising, this year produced more than a few excellent efforts by brands wanting to gain the attention of consumers. Super Bowl advertising has become as competitive and entertaining as the big game where marketing strategies succeed or fail overnight. While it is common to see a couple of advertising commercials surge to an easy victory, this year’s bevy of winning plays represent a wide selection of nominees for the best of show. Based on who performed the evaluation and what criteria were established for judging the effort, picking the top performers seemed to be determined by a wide range of personal viewer opinions. Was there a clear single advertising winner of Super Bowl LVIII across all audience segments? The absolute best answer may be, maybe.

It is imperative to remember the importance of measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of a marketing campaign and the Super Bowl event is no exception. While digital channels offer many methods to easily analyze and critique a performance, the television medium can be more subjective and difficult to quantify in terms of return on investment, the accepted method for marketers to measure success or failure. It just may be that the popularity of the NFL Super Bowl is one of those unique marketing opportunities whose worth cannot be determined solely by the numbers on a page.

In an effort to apprise winners and losers, we have selected a number of commercials that showed up in a win, place, or show category of most reviewer organizations. Some critics eliminated certain categories like religion and politics before judging and ranking. “The majority of ads were lighthearted, with a few brands that dug deeper, like Dove and Google, ” said Derek Rucker, a Kellogg professor and co-lead of the school’s ad review. Viewer favorites, based on USA Today’s Ad Meter, included State Farm’s spot with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito. Dunkin’s spot with Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Matt Damon, and Tom Brady commanded increased audience attention.

Hellmann’s ‘Mayo Cat’, continued the brand’s efforts to promote a focus on reducing food waste by communicating to Kate McKinnon on how to make effective use of leftovers by using Hellmann’s. Jennifer Aniston, David Schwimmer, Usher, the Beckhams and Jelly Roll reminded viewers that Uber Eatsdelivers more than take-out food”. The ad not only was entertaining but earned a grade of A from ADPLAN for pregame ad-placement success.

Volkswagen’s ‘An American Love Story’, “We shape its metal, You shape its soul”, deployed the most effective use of nostalgia by celebrating 75 years of selling Volkswagen cars in the United States. The campaign shows images of the iconic VW Minibus from the 1960s and movie images of the Beetle. The effort won the digital cross-channel award when Cars.com reported a 394 percent spike in website traffic following the airing of the spot. The ad had an “engagement index” score of 1,694 and created 1,594 percent as much engagement as the median-performing Super Bowl ad.

Verizon’s ‘Can’t Be Broken’, commercial featured mega-star Beyoncé who employs a variety of humorous tactics to break Verizon’s network. It reinforced Verizon’s ongoing theme of quality and dependable high-capacity network. Sprout Social rated the spot #1 in generating buzz on game night when Beyoncé experienced a surge of 254,844 new followers. Looking back and reutilizing themes from the past appeared to be a recurring tactic across all of this year’s Bowl commercials.

Nostalgia is a powerful marketing tool, particularly in challenging economic times. Looking back to perceived easier times has routinely found favor among consumers who often gain relief from feelings of anxiety and social instability. The truth is that the ragged edges of any period in history are often softened by the passing of time, a fact that peddlers of all things from music to milkshakes artfully tap into every few years in hopes of revitalizing sagging sales or polishing a tarnished brand. It is a powerful ploy that often works, at least for a while. Budweiser Lite returned to the Big Game with a message gleaned from a more successful past, attempting to reorder its brand reputation from last year’s historic marketing debacle. Whether the effort will resonate with angered consumers and restore some dignity to the once iconic brand remains to be determined.

Advertising critics did not need to grade Super Bowl LVIII’s off-field competition on a curve. While a small number of efforts received a “D” grade there were no complete failures noted from the sidelines. “It’s not just showing up at the Super Bowl that generates value for the brand, but making an ad that resonates with viewers,” says Derick Rucker. “When the costs are as high as the Super Bowl, that’s really dangerous. There are some brands that showed up, but you and I will forget about them the next day.”

What was your favorite Super Bowl LVIII commercial?