Sunday’s Game: Insights into Advertising’s Big Night

Rebecca Courtney, Corporate Communications Director

As the anticipation builds for the big game, the marketing and advertising industry is gearing up for what has become a spectacle in its own right—the commercials. From brand newcomers to nostalgic throwbacks to the influence of the NFL’s newest “MVP” Taylor Swift, this year promises to be no different.

Check out our observations and insights ahead of advertising's big night.

Welcome, First Timers 

Food and beverage brands are coming in hot this year, with newcomers such as Nerds, Popeyes and Drumstick entering the ring. But while Super Bowl debut brands are exciting to watch, taking a look at who is not advertising this year can offer just as much insight. Most notably, Ford, GM and Chrysler have opted out of spots, each citing rationale that generally speaks to a shift in business priorities this year.

At the cost of $7 million for a mere 30-second spot, despite the potential for having 115 million viewers watch your commercial, the decision to purchase a Super Bowl spot is undoubtedly a significant one. For any size brand, even for brands with seemingly sky-high advertising budgets, it's important to consider what will be more transformative to your brand’s goals: Prioritizing large reach for top-funnel awareness or a more targeted approach to those more likely to make a purchasing decision.

 The Taylor Swift Effect 

The NFL has not hesitated to bask in the halo of Taylor Swift’s glow as her loyal fan base cheers on the singer’s boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, and brands are quick to follow. Female-focused brands like Dove, e.l.f. and Fenty are seizing this opportunity to engage with a captivated audience by taking their own coveted ad spots.

But while this year’s female audience boost is undeniable, the fan base has been steadily increasing year after year. In fact, according to SSRS Sports Poll, women and girls made up 46% of the NFL fanbase in the U.S. in 2021. Taylor or not, female-focused brands should strongly consider tapping into the sports arena as female representation in the athletics world continues to shift.
Feeling Nostalgic 

The king of Super Bowl ads, Budweiser, returns this year with none other than its signature Clydesdale. Featuring a grown-up yellow Labrador Retriever from the beloved 2014 "Puppy Love" spot, Budweiser aims to evoke sentimentality and connect with viewers on an emotional level. 

Time after time, nostalgia continues to be a powerful tool in the advertiser's arsenal. In fact, according to a May 2023 study done by consumer analytics platform CivicScience, more than half of U.S. adults say they are more likely “to make a purchase when it makes them feel nostalgic for the past.” It taps into the sense of familiarity, trust and comfort that not only connects your audience with your offering but increases the likelihood that they’ll remember your commercial or brand long-term.

Has the AI Cycle Run Its Course? 

Artificial intelligence was a dominant theme in last year’s 2023 Super Bowl commercials with ChatGPT appearing as a recurring guest star across multiple brands. However, though AI conversations continue to elevate, mentions of this technology are surprisingly lacking in this year’s line-up.

According to CNN’s conversation with Paul Hardart, a clinical professor of marketing for New York University’s Stern School of Business, cites that this may be due to advertisers' hesitancy to lean into polarizing topics and, instead, feature more uplifting and entertaining content (see: nostalgia commentary above).

Roll Out the Red Carpet 

Celebrity cameos have become a staple of Super Bowl commercials, adding an extra layer of excitement for viewers. This year is no exception, with famous faces like Lionel Messi, Addison Rae, Kris Jenner, David and Victoria Beckham and Post Malone set to grace our TV screens.

But is the additional celebrity spend worth it? Interestingly, a new study by market research group System1 Group that analyzed how consumers reacted to Super Bowl ads from 2020 to 2023 found celebrity appearances underperformed in comparison to brand characters or “branded situations.” Though name recognition may draw your audience in, it's likely something more unique and ownable to your brand that will give you a better chance of connecting.

As the excitement builds for the big game, advertisers are gearing up to leave a lasting impression on viewers around the world. From first-time entrants to nostalgic callbacks and celebrity-packed commercials, Super Bowl advertising continues to be a dynamic and ever-evolving landscape. As we await the unveiling of this year's commercials, one thing is for certain—the Sunday game is not just about football; it's a showcase of creativity, innovation and the relentless pursuit of captivating audiences on advertising's grandest stage.

Want to know more about what these trends mean for your organization’s marketing strategy and communications in 2024? Let’s talk!