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Super Bowl Advertising - One Tough Mudder

The Super Bowl has scale.

It is one of the last bastions for mass appointment viewing television garnering over 120 million viewers in America alone. It appeals to both genders and many like the ads as much as the game.

The Marketers that step up to and buy their way into 'the game' have courage and conviction. They are playing in a high stakes, high risk and reward game. Their ante is $5 million dollars to secure the real estate and millions more to activate. Getting noticed requires 30 seconds of original content that is highly engaging while setting up, versus overshadowing the brand.

Super Bowl creative often involves 'A' Celebrities and this year's crop would rival a Golden Globe Red Carpet. Some have egos and some may be temperamental in their role as a brand prostitutes. You have to create and then sell them on a script that can play to their personality and their ability to persuade.

To add further complexity, the Marketer needs to hedge their bet by repurposing their content through teasers, long-form video, hashtags, and earned media. In doing so, they either entertain or irritate the innocent bystanders that happen to stumble on their efforts. All of this makes this the 'Tough Mudder' for Marketers.

This is a nasty gauntlet that many have to run with a CFO riding on their back wielding a spreadsheet as a whip while relentlessly questioning whether this is an ego play or something that will deliver a return on investment.

With this pressure and scrutiny, how can you create a great Super Bowl Campaign? In my opinion, there is one word that separates an extraordinary versus ordinary Super Bowl Campaign. Relevancy. It's the oxygen of brand communication. Your creative can win a mantle full of awards, but if your brand isn't relevant to the storyline and the viewer's shopping list you won't succeed.

Finding the right balance between engagement and relevance isn't a skip in the park. You can cast the right celebrity, buy the rights to a hit song or even play the puppy card to drive viewer engagement but at what point will they bury your brand? You can invest in mesmerizing CGI that pales your brand in comparison. You can hire a Top Director and Writer but if the storyline isn't based on an insight that matters to your target the content could bounce like water hitting a hot Teflon Pan. You can invest in too much brand blabber and find yourself in a situation where you have spent millions talking to yourself as the viewer checks out.

Here are three that I feel have outstanding possibilities to succeed based on their ability to be both entertaining and relevant. I have also included an idea on how they could extend the campaign further to deliver an even higher return on investment.

T Mobile Super Bowl Ad with Drake

Kudos to the team for casting Drake who can act, and then buy the rights to his hit song 'You Used to Call me on My Cell Phone' which is still tracking. Their brand enables versus disrupts the storyline, and they hit home with their consumer benefit of unlimited streaming of music.

My extension Idea T-Mobile. Extend your campaign by creating pop-up stores that feature the yellow cube in his video. Dance your way to a discount.

Budweiser PSA and Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren delivers an Oscar-winning performance for Budweiser on the stupidity of drinking and driving. She appeals to a wide target audience with an accent that is Downton Abbey and dialogues more fitting the East End. The PSA shines a big halo on the brand and is packed with several memes like 'you are pillocks' that will explode in social media and become part of mainstream vernacular.

My extension idea for Budweiser. Personalize the campaign by asking the consumer to produce and post their own don't drink and drive rants with the copy as good as the original - 'if your brain was donated to science, science would return it"

Shock Top with comedian T.J. Miller

How do you stand out in a bar with a crowded tap lineup? With a fiery, red-haired, tap handle complete with a Don Rickles mouth taking on the comedian T.J. Miller. They banter back and forth like Chinese Ping Pong Champions. It's a spot you can watch over and over, and steal phrases to pound your friends with.

Shock, Shock Top even further. Bring your character and personality out of the ad and into the bars - every time you pull a pint your customer gets 'shock topped'.

There are a lot of ads that I liked for their entertainment value. Alex Baldwin for Amazon, Liem Neeson for LG and Arrowsmith Front Man Steve Tyler for Skittles all deliver their lines. Even a frozen Scott Baio from Happy Days fame adds some heat to a fun spot titled Avo's from Space for Avocados from Mexico.

I also felt some ads tried too hard with their CGI, or tried to out Puppy Budweiser with their singing or dressed-up pets. Cause-Related campaigns like Colgate's 'save water' I personally feel are out of place at a Game where people indulge, while others were easy to ignore. Thankfully there are still some we haven't seen yet as there are still Marketers who prefer the Super Bowl Stage to stand their new creative on.

It will be days before we know which of the 41 brands advertising in this year's Super Bowl will bring in the eyeballs and the clicks. It will be months more before post-campaign evaluations can provide an honest assessment of how it moved the needle on their volume and share.

No matter, in these times of cost scrutiny and badgering CFO's you ran this creative and complex gauntlet, you are one Tough Mudder.


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