Super Bowl 52: Celebrity Endorsements, A.I. & Vikings, Oh My!

Super Bowl 52: Celebrity Endorsements, A.I. & Vikings, Oh My!Alyson S. Campbell, CEO & Founder of Heart & Soul PR

At a cost of nearly $5 million for a 30 second commercial, according to Sports Illustrated, and with very few spots offered during the Super Bowl 52 this year, this didn’t leave much time or room for marketers to make  an impression on consumers.  At such high stakes, a marketer’s analogy of making impressions and leaving little room for error is apropos of how you could break down the big game where the Philadelphia Eagles outscored the Patriots by just eight points. 

Each point matters in the game, just as the impressions advertisers must leave on consumers in one of the most highly viewed broadcasts of the year.   So, which commercials made the biggest gains in this year’s Super Bowl and which didn’t quite cross the goal line?

The Winners

#TideAd:  Playing with humor and cultural memes that are seen frequently – the Old Spice Guy, car ads, beer commercials, perfume and pharmaceutical advertisements to name a few –  Tide was ingenious by creating a memorable series of commercials that played to consumers’ guessing game that goes on frequently during the Super Bowl of not understanding what an ad is for and keeping everyone guessing (or leaving everyone confused) at the end. 



Amazon: Alexa Loses Her Voice: Like Tide, Amazon played to the relevancy of culture by creating a playful and humorous spin on the technology which runs our lives, including the ever-present Alexa. The replacements for Alexa roasted consumers with appearances from Gordon Ramsay yelling at a young man asking how to make a grilled cheese; Cardi B laughing at how far Mars is; Rebel Wilson talking dirty from her bathtub to a dinner crowd looking to set mood music; and Anthony Hopkins drawing references from “Silence of the Lambs” while feeding peacocks. 



Sprint: Evelyn: Sprint’s Evelyn and a roomful of robots laughing at the person who created them?  Fantastic.  It was nice to see that Sprint was able to convey relevant product messages about their service while not doing the same old we have seen in other carrier-oriented commercials. The A.I. with society’s technological fascination also spoke volumes.



Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew Ice: Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage takes on Busta Rhymes Doritos Blaze style and Morgan Freeman takes on Mountain Dew Ice Missy Elliott style. Cooky? Yes. On brand? Yes. Pepsico knows their target audience and didn’t let consumers down again with this year’s ad.



Bud Light: The Bud Knight: Bud Light had teased their “Dilly Dilly” catch phrase leading up to the Super Bowl and they continued the story in the series of their commercials.  While some may be mixed on if these were worth the actual value (was it worth more than $15.4 million for the brand on these?), they left an impression with consumers (this one ad alone has already generated more than 15 million YouTube views) and used a key marketing strategy of teasing by showing enough, but getting consumers to want to check out more of the story by going online to follow it.




  • Toyota: Good Odds: Toyota gave a heartwarming message, showing the journeys of Paralympian Lauren Woolstencroft who beat the odds (along with showing the odds statistics) for winning eight Paralympic gold medals. As a sponsor of the Paralympic Games, Toyota did a nice job celebrating the athletes by tugging on the heartstrings and showing her inspiring journey and staying relevant with their tagline – “Let’s Go Places.”



  • Turkish Airlines: Five Senses with Dr. Oz: As marketers are now marketing more to Millennials who are driving much of the travel/tourism economy as a result of their desire for an experience, this one hit the mark. Great cinematography and the idea of having a full sensory experience was a nice take without hitting consumers over the head with the brand.



  • Kia Stinger: “Feel Something Again”: Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler takes a step back in time, putting the new Kia Stinger on a raceway in reverse. There was nothing gimmicky about the commercial and Kia maintained a good balance of showcasing the product while making it playful and memorable.



  • Groupon: “Who Wouldn’t: “Girls” Trip star Tiffany Haddish takes on big vs. small business and two football players kick footballs into a man who shows his disdain for helping small business. Was the commercial funny? To some. But why it worked was more about that it was relevant to the brand’s message and done in a way that got the message across.



The Losers

Honda: At first, you are wondering if anything is going to happen in the commercial and then you start to lose interest. Finally, when the actor staring at the screen does say something, it isn’t clear as to how it relates to anything and therefore the commercial doesn’t even make sense. They did it last year well with “Yearbooks,” but this year’s fell very short. 

Jack in the Box/Martha Stewart:  Sure, Jack in the Box is known for being gimmicky. But they just tried too hard with this one to be funny. Let’s hope their online #JackVSMartha Twitter war is more successful. 

Diet Coke: Twisted Mango Groove: The iconic brand tried to appeal to culture, but they just couldn’t pull it off. Trying to be too cute and clever and segment one particular audience but not doing it well (“the brand wanted to appeal to younger consumers of all kinds” according to a statement) can just go awry, just as the dancing in this one did. Coca-Cola should stick with their other better-received commercials with vibrant cinematography and fun storytelling.

Turbotax: The Thing Under the Bed: While the heart of Turbotax’s message about not being scared of doing taxes is good, the execution of their commercial was poor. This year’s “The Thing Under the Bed” with a slimy, gooey creature (perhaps meant to be the Boogeyman) just wasn’t visually appealing or funny.

Ram: Built to Serve: Filling a commercial with a memorable Martin Luther King, Jr. speech?  It just wasn’t a fit for the brand. Additionally, the implied message that MLK couldn’t have reached the mountaintop without the truck’s durability wasn’t smart or culturally appropriate, especially on the heels of an earlier commercial in the broadcast showing Vikings on a ship singing “We Will Rock You” taking on the ruggedness of the sea.  Ram should stay in the lane they know. 

This year’s commercials had a little bit of everything; they were cooky, fun and heartwarming, similar to the pulse of our current culture. What made (and makes) the impression for the consumer was each brands’ execution, in particular, knowing its audience, remaining brand relevant and on message as well as culturally relevant as appropriate.  These strategies will always be winning ones in the playbook.


About the Author: Alyson S. Campbell is the CEO & Founder of Heart & Soul PR, and has worked in the public relations and media industry for nearly 15 years for leading agencies including Porter Novelli, Padilla and FleishmanHillard. Her experience spans the business to business and business to consumer industries and she has developed and implemented award-winning strategic communications plans for clients including Procter & Gamble, Mercedes-Benz, Hewlett-Packard and Snapfish by HP, British Airways, Timberland, Hass Avocado Board, Special Olympics World Games, Girl Scouts of the USA and many more.