POV: Super Bowl LIII Wrap Up


Brands played it safe at Super Bowl LIII. Politics has been a big story for the NFL in recent years and many said the focus on Colin Kaepernick had led to a loss of ratings.

Details and Implications:

Political sentiment bled into 2017’s Super Bowl spots when brands like Airbnb, 84 Lumber and Budweiser created ads referencing the contentious political climate and to a lesser extent again in 2018. This year, a combination of higher scoring games and less controversy off the field has seen the NFL’s regular season ratings return.

Although research has shown people supporting brands that take a stand (particularly younger demographics), a recent poll by Morning Consult showed that two thirds of consumers think it’s inappropriate for brands to make political statements during the Super Bowl specifically. Brands that went with CSR ads focused on issues that are universally well-received, such as female empowerment and accessibility.

Most brands decided to go for humor, which tends to have broader appeal. Many went with nostalgic celebrities (Backstreet Boys, Jeff Bridges, Sarah Jessica Parker), hoping to hit the NFL’s main demo of older viewers. Noticeably, one theme was the use of robots, playing to the technology anxieties viewers have over AI, big data and job loss. They also provided a foil for brands trying to seem more human and relatable.

Amazon had a big presence at this year’s Super Bowl (besides Bezos in the box suite). Amazon Web Services was an official sponsor and for a second year, Amazon’s star-studded Alexa ad was one of the most well-received. Amazon Prime’s Hanna and Bezos’ owned Washington Post also had spots. As a whole, there was an increased presence from technology brands, such as Hulu, Bumble, Wix and more.

For the second straight year, Twitter hosted #BrandBowl, a competition that recognizes the brand that gets the most engagement during the game, regardless of whether they have a TV spot or not. While fan-favorites like Game of Thrones / Bud Light and Marvel received plenty of buzz, Frank’s RedHot earned over 3.5 million impressions for its Twitter competition that also engaged 40 other brands.


Although a 30-second spot cost a record $5.25mn, a mix of Patriots fatigue, a boring game, the Kaepernick boycott and a Saints boycott led to the least-watched Super Bowl in 11 years. Brands like Sunny-D, Snickers, and Mercedes-Benz got in on the criticism (though Mercedes deleted their tweet). While you can’t make the game more exciting, there are still ways for brands to tap into the public sentiment.

Further Reading / Viewing:

All the NFL Super Bowl LIII Ads | Ad Age Super Bowl Report