Super Bowl LVI Spotlight: New players and plays take a familiar field
Super Bowl LVI was a return to normal for North America’s marquee sporting and advertising spectacle compared to last year’s COVID-centric event. A full-capacity crowd at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles once again enjoyed a close game, people returned to their traditional Super Bowl watch parties, and the success the NFL had all season long ratings-wise meant 30-second Super Bowl ad prices skyrocketed year-over-year – up to $6.5 million from $5.6 million last year. For brands willing to fork over a record high price to get their message out to the estimated 100 million people watching in America and millions more in Canada, this year’s big game represented a huge opportunity to make waves, especially for companies in emerging industries duking it out for product awareness.
After reviewing each brand’s omnichannel downfield attempts, analysts from Mintel Comperemedia have identified themes that emerged from this year’s Super Bowl marketing slate, and within each have noted the ads and strategies that reached the end zone, and the ones that dropped the ball.
Crypto crashes the party
Despite their all-out blitz, crypto brands remained cryptic.
Reminiscent of the flood of dotcom brands that overtook advertising during Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, cryptocurrency brands attempted a similar conquest this year as consumer interest in cryptocurrency has surged with up to 1 in 6 of Americans stating they have invested in, traded, or used cryptocurrency. Coinbase, FTX, Crypto.com, and eToro introduced themselves to the mass market with new commercials, and all dared potential customers to use their exchange platforms to jump into the volatile-yet-potentially-fruitful market.
Coinbase’s minute-long floating QR code was the talk of the night and a necessary attempt to stand out among crypto facilitators. Despite this, a lack of any true messaging about product differentiation – as well as the subsequent website crash post-ad – likely led to a huge dropoff of customers after they scanned the code, rendering the whole point of the campaign moot.
FTX joined the Gen X and Millennial-friendly nature of this year’s halftime show by featuring similarly-friendly Larry David as a humorous skeptic of history’s most important inventions, reaching the conclusion that crypto is another “can’t-miss” success. Unlike Coinbase’s spot, this ad succeeded in raising long-term customer interest in the importance of cryptocurrency for people’s finances and appealed to any customer with an internet connection, not just those who can quickly scan a QR code.
Crypto.com enlisted the help of LeBron James and a CGI’d younger version of himself to promote investing in cryptocurrency as one of the many points of advice he would give to his younger self. While this ad stressed a similar urgency to FTX’s spot, it failed to provide the same long-term optimism, especially in the midst of many cryptocurrencies’ precipitous drops in value.
While hordes of viewers know more about cryptocurrency and where they can get it than they did before the game, most of the crypto ads seen in this year’s Super Bowl failed to educate the mass market about what cryptocurrency even is or is good for. This crucial step – combined with generous incentives and offers to get customers to sign up and start investing – would have been much more effective in encouraging sign-ups and getting customers to pick a trading platform for the long term than the methods seen last night.
NBC ran a spread formation, while other streamers went for the Hail Mary.
The imminent arrival of Paramount+ dominated last year’s CBS broadcast of Super Bowl LV. In 2022, it was Peacock’s chance to flaunt its feathers. The NBC streamer’s original content slate was spread evenly throughout the game, giving extended looks at new originals (Bel-Air) while teasing the arrival of hotly-anticipated titles (the Tiger King fictionalization Joe vs Carole). Familiarity was also key to Peacock’s Super Bowl strategy, sprinkling in its deep catalog of sitcom classics with the “bum bum” sound effects of the Law & Order remount. While some promotions were perplexing (we’re not sure what The Endgame is), a spread formation for NBC’s exclusive content was an effective strategy to show all the network has to offer.
Peacock’s competitors also made their presence known throughout the broadcast. Netflix utilized a more traditional tease for a large number of its original movies which will total one a week. However, Netflix’s TV lineup was curiously absent, which could signal a strategy shift for the streaming Goliath. Meanwhile, Disney took a sillier general branding approach, bringing in Awkwafina to walk around offices filled to the brim with goats representing many characters featured on Disney+. The costumed creatures gave audiences a chance to explore the frame for their favorite IP, while also solidifying the key message that Disney has “all the GOATs” in its back pocket.
Ultimately, though, Amazon had one of the most highly-anticipated reveals of the night with the first full look at The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. The original prequel to the generation-spanning franchise is a huge investment for Amazon, with a reported first-season budget of nearly half a billion dollars. While Amazon tends to hedge its content investments by promoting a large swath of content across channels, a big Super Bowl spot sets the stage for a Tolkien-centric year for the streamer.
T-Mobile ran the ball right at its opponents, while Verizon and AT&T focused on their own game.
Mintel’s latest 5G consumer research shows that two-thirds of adults with mobile network service either have a 5G plan or plan on getting one within the next 12 months. As familiarity and interest grow, wireless providers utilized the Super Bowl to take some shots at a more open audience (and at each other).
Along with an extension of its 5G Ultra spots, Verizon 5G impacted the in-stadium experience. SoFi stadium is Verizon’s largest 5G stadium to date, with an investment of $119M in the stadium and the surrounding campus, according to Fierce Wireless. At halftime, Verizon partnered with Pepsi to deliver 360-degree views of the show from three different vantage points in the stadium through a dedicated app. The low-latency customized view is a powerful use case for Verizon’s 5G capabilities and a more creative way for fans to interact with live performances, ultimately making for a perfect encapsulation of Comperemedia’s 2022 Telecom & Media Trend ‘Ecosystems Expanding.’
While Verizon focused on the experience, T-Mobile focused on Verizon as well as AT&T. T-Mobile touted the power of its network in a series of humorous spots featuring Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus under the guise of a PSA for people to “save the phones” that aren’t getting adequate 5G from Verizon and AT&T. A narrative arc through multiple ads kept users engaged throughout the broadcast, as the combination of earnestness and satire dulled the jabs T-Mobile was making at its competitors.
Both Verizon and T-Mobile also touted 5G home products utilizing Millennial icons. Verizon resurrected Jim Carey’s eccentric character from The Cable Guy to showcase the product’s easy installation. Meanwhile, T-Mobile brought in Scrubs stars Zach Braff and Donald Faison to sing a duet about the “internet without BS.” AT&T has a fixed wireless product too, but instead used its time to promote the new 5-Gig fiber internet to help customers “live like a Gig-illionaire.” Each spot differentiates the “Big Three” telecoms as they look to address a variety of customer concerns surrounding the internet (convenience, price, and speed, respectively).
Any doubt that EVs are going mainstream was sacked on Sunday.
Car commercials are a mainstay during the Super Bowl, but this year was the first that featured a nearly all-electric lineup. And these weren’t concept cars or big talk about feel-good future plans – these were vehicles that are on sale now or will be very soon. Spots from GM, Hyundai, Kia, BMW, and Polestar promoted their new vehicles with a common theme that electric IS the future.
Maybe a bit surprising was the lack of environmental messaging that accompanied most of these commercials. Even more surprising was that GM was the only brand to highlight the environmental benefits of going electric while others highlighted their advanced tech, power, and modern styling. A bit of a risky move for an American car manufacturer to cite climate change at a time when it is one of the many politically-charged topics. Not stopping there, GM doubled down by making one of the more bold claims (coming straight from Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame), “We’re going all-electric!” GM is one of the biggest US auto manufacturers, and to hear them proclaim that they are going “all-electric” to an audience of millions is a big deal. As manufacturers scramble to catch up with Tesla’s lead, we are entering an exciting new era of automobiles. One that will have legacy automakers making bold moves.
The Super Bowl in Canada
An American pastime comes with mostly American brands.
Although there were no Canadian superstars that dominated the broadcast on DAZN, many American companies were well-represented during the Super Bowl. The broadcast definitely doesn’t have the same reach in Canada as it does in the US. Still, like the US, Canadian Super Bowl ads were a lot less focused on the pandemic outrage than they have in years past, and more about rediscovering the pleasures of going outside, discovering life, traveling to meet family again, and other activities consumers missed over the past few years.
Before the game, Bitbuy utilized NBA star Kyle Lowry in a similar fashion as FTX when it featured Larry David. The “crypto destination for investors” played on the idea of not missing opportunities like Lowry’s missed 6K+ shots in his career. In a unique move, the ad specifically spoke to Canadian investors, which likely helped the brand stand out in a sea of American-centric spots.
What we think
While this year’s slate of ads had no obvious standouts, brands that were able to sensibly tie back their entertaining campaigns to a tangible product benefit — like FTX, Netflix, and GM among others — all succeeded in driving consumer attention and interest. As the country continues to push normalcy regardless of covid case counts, consumers are bound to seek less escapist content, and more entertainment forms that align with their current realities — likely to include travel, on-the-go interaction, and social gatherings. Therefore, in the future, brands that focus on genuinely supporting customers as their daily lives continue to evolve post-covid will make good use of any expensive Super Bowl ad time they buy.