A big game calls for big advertisements – and they don’t come much bigger than the Super Bowl. On Sunday February 2nd, more than 100 million people tuned in to see the Kansas City Chiefs defeat the San Francisco 49ers in an explosive encounter at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. On the field and on TV screens, competition for places was fierce, with prices surpassing $5.6 million for a 30-second advertising slot. And this year in particular, the ad bowl line-up looked and sounded a little different, with brands changing the rules of the game to touch down with consumers all around the world.
Football faces the music
Football rivalries may divide a household, but everyone unites over the food. The Super Bowl is a football food feast, and this year, snack brands were on the offensive as Pop Tarts, Pringles, Snickers, Little Caesars, Doritos and Sabra all dipped into their budgets for a bite of the action. Cheetos really made us sit up and take notice with their comedic collaboration with 90s hip-hop star MC Hammer. His track, “U Can’t Touch This”, will kick off the brand’s biggest innovation – Cheetos Popcorn – and the lyrics offer the perfect excuse to get out of life’s most mundane tasks. The advert is Cheetos’ first big-game spot in over a decade, and the mischievous mashup between MC Hammer and Cheetos is a perfect, playful fit.
Seasoned Super Bowl advertiser Pepsi teamed up with Jennifer Lopez and Shakira for this year’s Halftime Show and similarly to Cheetos, the soft drink giant also rolled out a revelation – a newly-designed can for Pepsi Zero Sugar. As for their commercial, rap icon Missy Elliott took the golden stage of advertising with a radical reimagining of The Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black” song. This year’s artist alignment is just the latest in a long line of pop music connections since the 1960s, as brands continue to keep in tune with consumers by scoring an emotional, relatable and authentic connection.
Levelling the playing field
Traditionally, Super Bowl Sunday was a male-dominated event with advertisements targeting and starring men. However, in 2020, football advertisers adopted a more female focus. Skincare brand Olay ran an ad with an all-female cast in a bid to raise money for female coders, while other female celebrities who made commercial appearances included Molly Ringwald, who touted Avocados from Mexico, and Winona Ryder, who helped promote the web hosting firm Squarespace. And in one of many space travel-themed adverts, Olay gave a a giant leap for women in the technology industry as Taraji P Henson, Lilly Singh and other stars featured as astronauts on a mission to #MakeSpaceForWomen. The company is pledging to donate $1 to Girls Who Code, a nonprofit aimed at closing the gender gap in science and tech, for every viewer who responds on Twitter.
This year’s female-forward ads come in stark contrast to the male-targeted ads that aired during the Super Bowl less than ten years ago. In addition, there were eleven LGBTQ-inclusive Super Bowl ads as Miz Cracker and Kim Chi made history by becoming the first Drag Queens to appear in a Super Bowl ad. The two stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race advertise one of the US’ top hummus brands, Sabra. The purpose, according to Jason Levine, Sabra’s Chief Marketing Officer, was to showcase a diverse group of people in the ad and subsequently offer “something for everyone”.
A whole new ball game
Super Bowl 2020’s adverts were once again a hallmark of the annual event. The cultural commercial phenomenon took viewers through every emotion across the 77 advertising slots. The Kansas City Chiefs weren’t the only big winners on the night, across the board, brands tackled a diverse range of topics to successfully captivate audiences far and wide – deploying original content, ideas and use of sound to do so. Most importantly, this year more than ever before, the commercials of the Super Bowl signalled a major change – moving the goalposts for the future of football and advertising.