Super Bowl LVII review: Disney dominates, co-branding needs tinkering and M&M’s recovers a near disastrous fumble

One for the animal lovers and the nostalgia-seekers, Super Bowl LVII saw a seemingly endless stream of adverts and PMW has put together a recap of everything you need to know.

With a dramatic touchdown late in the game to keep the Eagles alive followed by a tenuous holding call against their defence giving Kansas City the chance to win it with a final field goal, all occurring in the wake of Rihanna’s stunning half-time performance, Super Bowl LVII won’t soon be forgotten.

With the debate as to whether or not the Chiefs got lucky raging on in the Twittersphere, it’s time to review one aspect of the Super Bowl that’s often just as opaque - which advertisers won the big game?

As the experts predicted, this year’s advert slots were full of brand partnerships, interactive QR codes and endless celebrity cameos, but we also saw the first ‘five-star’ ad since 2021 (according to ad monitoring firm System1), higher audience engagement than previous years and big brand wins, Disney and Amazon among them. Unsurprisingly, crypto ads were completely unsighted, indicating that it may be time for the digital currency platforms to retire.

The top performing ads

For these ratings, PMW has utilised marketing research company System1’s ratings system which takes into account an adverts impact on short term sales, long term growth prospects and brand visibility to create a rating out of 5.9 stars. With that in mind, let’s review the top performing ads, one of which has written itself into the Super Bowl advert history books, earning a five star rating - a feat just 1% of all adverts achieve.

1. Disney: “Disney100 Special Look” - 5.3 stars

At an event with movie stars abound, Disney proved it is truly the belle of the ball, releasing a promotion for the famous company’s upcoming 100 year anniversary. With clips from 1923’s Steamboat Willie all the way to 2022’s Avatar: The Way of Water, Disney deployed its full armoury of characters and audiences loved it. Taking advantage of its upcoming anniversary, Disney timed this advert to perfection, tying 100 years of quality into 90 seconds of wonder, and for that, it earned 5.3 stars.

2. M&M’s: “Back for Good” - 4.8 stars

In what could be labelled as a great escape, M&M’s second advert of the game was near perfect, allowing the famous candy brand to recover what was almost a major fumble. Initially, M&M’s appeared to have ditched their famous cartoon candy characters, serving up a mid-game commercial where Maya Rudolph’s clam-flavoured replacements scored a rock-bottom 1 star. However, moments after the game’s conclusion, a fifteen second ad saw the iconic characters return, much to the audience’s delight. The publicity around the stunt and the warm welcome back underlines just how crucial fluent device characters can be.

3. T-Mobile: “New Year. New Neighbour” - 4.7 stars

Classic movies, characters, songs and duos. This was the name of the game for a T-Mobile ad featuring Grease’s John Travolta revisiting his performance of “Summer Nights” with updated lyrics praising T-Mobile’s 5G broadband. Alongside, Zach Braff and Donald Faison, famous for their work together in the sitcom “Scrubs”, an advert full of nostalgia and high spirits was enough to get audiences engaged and had T-Mobile “burning up the quarter mile”.

4. Amazon: “Saving Sawyer” - 4.4 stars

In what was the number one storytelling ad of the Super Bowl, if there’s one way to make sure an audience is along for the ride, it’s by tugging on their heartstrings and using a dog to do it. Amazon managed to sneakily advertise its Prime shopping service by including it as a mere footnote in the story of Sawyer - a dog struggling to adapt to his loving family returning to life after lockdown and leaving him on his lonesome at home. An emotional roller-coaster with a classic bait-and-switch, the audience breathed a sigh of relief when Sawyer’s family brought him home a new friend - courtesy of Prime Delivery - when it looked as if he was set for a permanent trip to the pound.

5. Jeep: “Electric Boogie” - 4.3 stars

People’s love of animals was on full display yet again in this Jeep advert, but leaning on humour instead of heartbreak. Jeep decided to pair promotion of its new electric vehicle with a rendition of “Electric Slide”. Reggae rapper Shaggy commanded the vocals while a series of exotic wild animals took control of the dance floor. A tried and true formula after Doritos earned a 4 star rating with cartoon animals dancing to “Push It” last year, Jeep’s use of CGI animals doing the “boogie woogie” was a crowd-pleaser.

Rookie of the year

The Farmer’s Dog: “Forever” - 4.2 stars

Special mention must go to The Farmer’s Dog as the online pet food company certainly made an impression with its debut Super Bowl advert. Audience insight experts, fifty.io, uncovered that the pet food provider’s commercial “Forever” was the most talked about advert of the Super Bowl, garnering 10,400 mentions across measurable platforms. System1’s star rating system also gave it 4.2 stars, making it the 8th highest rated advert of the game and proving that in-house advertising can compete at the top level. The Farmer’s Dog’s products are designed to keep dogs happy and healthy so they can enjoy more years as part of a family, and viewers loved this simple but well-executed spot bringing that idea to life.

Super Bowl LVII: Five key marketing themes

Jon Evans, Chief Customer Officer, System1, said: “This year saw a welcome jump in overall scores, and a rich 5-Star ad from Disney. The big theme we saw was nostalgia with homages to classic film and TV doing particularly well.

“Nostalgia can be great at boosting effectiveness but it can lead to an over-reliance on celebrities, and that’s what we’ve seen in a lot of ads this year. After all, celebrities are no replacement for great characters of your own.”

The three C’s - culture, celebrity and co-branding

1. From riffs on classic movies like T-Mobile’s use of Grease’s John Travolta, to paying homage to TV favourites like Breaking Bad, cultural references once again proved they are a great way of boosting advert effectiveness and audience engagement by prompting an emotional response.

2. Only three of the top ten ads and just two of the top five managed to score so highly without the aid of a celebrity cameo, all of which favoured animals instead. This reflects that in terms of successful Super Bowl adverts, use of celebrity is a safe bet. However, the frequency of their inclusion does make some brands liable to having their advert get lost in the crowd - celebrities no longer stand out in total isolation.

3. As predicted, with costs for ad slots on the rise, co-branding has become a constructive way to split the investment. However, as Netflix and General Motors have learned after their shared commercial starring Will Ferrell scored poorly, sharing the limelight with another brand can cause the message to get lost in translation and brand fluency to suffer.

Going meta and going social

4. A recurring theme within Super Bowl commercials is meta-advertising and we saw it again this year. Advertisers have become unafraid to create commercials which are self-referential about being a Super Bowl ad. This strategy worked to varying degrees of success. M&M’s executed it perfectly to almost earn 5 stars with their “spokescandies” press conference, but both Molson-Coors and T-Mobile may be regretting going too meta and failing to cut through to the public.

5. Although TikTok itself didn’t advertise during the Super Bowl, the social media platform had its metaphorical fingerprints all over the game. The app’s challenges and memes were present in a multitude of commercials from brands like Bud Light and Kia, indicating a belief that the video-sharing platform has become commonplace among audiences and as the Super Bowl’s demographic keeps changing with more of the younger generations tuning in each year, expect TikTok’s influence to be here for the long run.

Overall, Super Bowl LVII’s advertising was full of hits and misses, touchdowns and fumbles, but the general standard of commercials was higher than in recent years, averaging a 3 star rating which comfortably outperformed 2022’s average of 2.6 stars.

The key takeaways being, celebrities remain a reliable source of engagement, as do animals, however, nothing beats truly great story-telling and the benefits of having recognisable fluent device characters are substantial.

As for co-branding partnerships, expect to see more of them in future with prices on the rise, but they still have some tweaks to be made before they become consistently fruitful endeavours.

Finally, with crypto seemingly in retirement, TikTok is the new kid on the block and doesn't appear to be going anywhere.

Listen to our lastest Attention Seekers podcast with Jon Evans, CCO at System1 and host of the Uncensored CMO podcast talk about how ads get attention for $7million...


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