March 30, 2021

Super Bowl Ad Analysis

By B&SC Blog Team

Super Bowl Ad Analysis

This past Sunday’s Super Bowl provided a somewhat return to normalcy. Maybe not as we have experienced with past years but good enough considering we are still in the midst of a pandemic. This game reflects an accumulation of two teams who have worked hard to reach this final game – and under even more challenging circumstances than other seasons – but I have to admit the Super Bowl ads are the other reason I was looking forward to Sunday’s game.

As with all major events of 2020 until now, everything is looking a little different and a surprise here or there. When it comes to the Super Bowl ads it’s no different. It started with Budweiser announcing it will not be participating this year. Budweiser has been an icon over the years with their story involving Clydesdales – and the token cute puppy – were always a hit. The company was also known for using the Clydesdales to honor those fallen in 9/11 with their 2002 Super Bowl ad. Instead of using this advertising window to share its message Budweiser has decided to channel their advertising dollars to partner with the Ad Council in raising awareness about the COVID-19 vaccine. As a marketer, this is a bold move but one that speaks volumes. This proved, to me at least, that their empathy appears to be genuine when looking to help others versus participating in the Super Bowl.

Reflecting on Sunday’s game the ads ran the gamut this year with providing an overwhelming amount of celebrity appeal, traveling to Norway, stunt doubles, 80s throwbacks, and flat out promotional messages. Other ads chose to address the pandemic with donations, thanking healthcare workers, or chalking up 2020 as a lemon year.

The one ad which stood out to me the most was Toyota’s “Upstream” which highlights the 13-time Paralympic gold medalist Jessica Long.

As she swims throughout different scenarios the voiceover is a phone call to her mother about adopting a girl from Siberia with a rare disease needing to have both of her legs amputated. The mother, without hesitation, knows the journey will not be easy but is excited to meet her new baby girl. The ad ends with the quote “We believe there is hope and strength in all of us” which quietly shares Jessica’s story but can resonate with us all when reflecting on this past year. I love that it’s not about Toyota and their latest vehicle, but supporting something greater. It’s a commercial that goes right for the heart and your only hope is to keep it together. After all it’s just a Super Bowl ad, right?

If I were to pick a winner for this year’s Super Bowl ad, it would be a tie between Toyota and Budweiser. 2020 has been a challenge for everyone. Although the Super Bowl was an exciting time to forget about the pandemic for just a few hours it’s these two companies who have chosen to forego the expensive ad slot to share an inspirational story or not be present at all. As a consumer I feel there is an authenticity with their message and how their advertising dollars can be used to help others. Did I find the other ads entertaining? Absolutely. But when I consider my loyalty with brands who I feel care about me and others in my community, it’s these two who will be my first choice.

Laura Engin is an Adjunct Business Instructor at Bryant & Stratton College

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