Feb 6, 2024

The Best Super Bowl Ads & What You Can Learn From Them

by Digital Marketing Institute

Without a doubt, the Super Bowl is responsible for some of the most exciting, jaw-dropping, impactful, and downright dazzling feats of advertising in marketing. 

Every year the industry looks to the creative feats that go into making amazing ads that are poignant, inspirational, or humorous—or a mix of all three, told through expert storytelling

Whether some of these big-budget promotions are worth around a whopping $7 million, (the most expensive Super Bowl ad to date) is up for debate. And when brands fail to score a promotional touchdown, the results can prove disastrous.

Let’s explore some of the most creative ads from over the past few years or so and consider what you can learn from them as a marketer.

Social Media Calendar 2024

What To Expect From This Year’s Super Bowl Ads

This year, TV pundits and aficionados expect around 100 million people to tune into the Super Bowl as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the San Francisco 49ers to battle it out for glory in Las Vegas. With rumors  that Taylor Swift may make a guest appearance to cheer on her boyfriend, Travis Kelce, spectator numbers could rise even higher as her legendary legions of fans tune in to the big game for the first time. 

Oh, and with the likes of Usher, Tiesto, Andra Day, and Post Malone touted to perform at this year’s halftime show, there’s no doubt that there will be a big global audience for this year’s action-packed clash of the NFL titans.

45 brands have secured airtime for this year’s event, with the likes of Booking.com, Budweiser, Dove, Lindt, Pringles, VW, Squarespace, Toyota, and the NFL itself all showcasing their ads to a captive audience.

While there was talk of artificial intelligence (AI) or tech mania dominating the space, so far, the likes of Google, OpenAI, or Amazon haven’t announced ads for this year’s big event. Instead, a host of snacks and drinks brands are set to feature ads (along with some big celebrities) in addition to a few new players featuring ads in local markets—most interestingly—Duolingo.

In recent years, Duolingo has turned heads and boosted its online presence with offbeat marketing initiatives like launching a fake reality dating show and introducing its pesky Duo Owl to the masses. The brand is known for its mildly “unhinged” experimental marketing, is partial to creating a “WTF” moment or two, and its upcoming Super Bowl ad aimed at local markets promises to turn heads.

Oreo is using Kris Jenner for their ads this year, while Victoria Beckham is reenacting a viral moment for Uber Eats. 

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

So, this year, we’re expecting to see more big-budget, humor-packed ads synonymous with the Super Bowl, as well as a mix of original, edgy, and offbeat offerings from growing brands or ambitious newcomers. It’s going to be a big one.

What’s Happening With Super Bowl Social Media This Year?

In our fast-paced age, social media platforms are now a standard part of the Super Bowl advertising mix, paying for ads via their own platforms or those of their competitors, like X (formerly known as Twitter), to drive more engagement.

Increasingly, sports fans are tapping into a multitude of social media channels to add extra layers of depth to their Super Bowl viewing experience.

Let’s take a look at some of the top social media players this year.

X (Twitter)

Despite the controversy surrounding the platform, it’s unlikely that many brands will migrate from X this year. The reason big brands are likely to use X for paid social media advertising during this year’s Super Bowl is its sheer ‘second-screening’ popularity among football fans. 

So, expect swarms of fast-paced micro content from some big-name brands on X during this year’s big game.

Threads

With Threads now rising beyond 150 million active users, this ‘fresh alternative to X’ is now well engaged and well subscribed.

While many established brands will plough their budgets, as well as their creative efforts, into X due to its second-screening popularity among football fans, you can expect to see savvy marketers cross-promoting their social media content while sparking up real-time Super Bowl-related conversations on the platform. 

Instagram

There’s not much hype surrounding Instagram-specific marketing content for this year’s Super Bowl. The highly visual nature of the Instagram platform is likely to serve up a host of posts, stories, and content surrounding the ads as well as the football action. Keep your eyes peeled using #SuperBowl2024 and follow ultra-popular football influencers such as Russell Wilson and Katie Sowers.

TikTok

There are already piles of fan content floating around on TikTok leading up to the big game—and the platform (with premium ad space ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 for 60 days of placement) is doing its utmost to attract marketers to invest in social media ad space before, during, and after the action unfolds.

YouTube

The world’s most popular video-based social media platform has been a prime secondary outlet for Super Bowl ads for many years (which will become apparent when we look at our Super Bowl Ads Hall of Fame).

To expand its Super Bowl second-screening empire, YouTube has improved its AdBlitz initiative.  This dedicated and interactive channel allows football fans to scour a well-crafted library of the best Super Bowl ads as well as exclusive football-related content.

Not only is this AdBlitz soaring in popularity among football fans—it’s also proving a lucrative marketing space for brands looking to expand their fan reach. It’s certainly one to look out for during this year’s action.

Overall, we expect more creative ad teasers, behind-the-scenes footage, and conversational content to spark fan engagement.

Keep your eyes peeled—social media is going to go wild during this year’s Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl Ads Hall Of Fame

First up, we’re going to look at the best ads of the Super Bowl from over the years. These brilliantly crafted feats of advertising match the offbeat, crowd-luring brilliance you’d expect to see from a top flight Super Bowl ad. 

Netflix and General Motors (2023)

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

In this colossal 2023 brand collaboration, Netflix and General Motors hired the help of Hollywood’s favorite funnyman, Will Ferrell, to dazzle audiences with a big-budget ad that’s slick, original, and mind-blowing in equal measure.

The ad showcases General Motors and Netflix's pledge to be more green: General Motors will make more electric vehicles and Netflix will feature them in its original content.

As Will Ferrell tells audiences of this eco-friendly initiative, he seamlessly bobs and weaves his way through a series of iconic Netflix box sets or movie scenes, letting his unique style of comic swagger shine through from start to finish. Epic.

Takeaway: The right brand collaboration will expand your ad reach and expose you to new audiences that are likely to engage with what you have to offer. By being sincere with your messaging and staying true to your brand tone and values, your authenticity is likely to build trust and attract more people to your brand. A quirky ad concept will help, too!

Lay’s Super Bowl ad (2022)

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

Part buddies-reunited sequence, part creepy zombie-bride narrative, the popular potato chip brand Lay’s gives us a show-stopper of a Super Bowl ad that was slick, funny, and slightly unnerving.

Hollywood legends Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen appear as buddies who share epic memories: each of which feature a golden bag of Lays chips, before a slightly spine-chilling zombie conclusion.

Here the brand positions itself as a memory maker (a product you have close by through the best and worst times)—and Lays hit the nail (or indeed, chip) on the head with this spot.

Takeaway: By honing in on your core message to deliver to your audience, placing it at the heart of your campaign, and building a lighthearted narrative around it, you can deliver an advert that strikes a real chord with your intended audience while representing your brand’s tone.

UberEats Super Bowl ad (2022)

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

2022’s UberEats (or, ‘Uber not Eats’) Super Bowl commercial, we’re invited to laugh and cringe at this star-studded munch-a-thon.

To shine a light on the fact that Uber delivers more than just food alone, the brand created an ad featuring A-list celebrities chomping on household items, including a light bulb, a diaper, lipstick, and a scented candle (yes, one of those Gwyneth Paltrow ones).

Here, the premise revolves around people eating freshly-delivered domestic items out of confusion because they think that UberEats only supplies food—and it works wonders. Oh, and the small print disclaimers such as “don’t eat lightbulbs” really add that extra touch of humor (it’s solid advice, too).

Takeaway: If you’re looking to expand your brand’s commercial scope or pivot your business in any way, using your ad to shine a light on your new service or USP in an eye-grabbingly creative way will spark engagement while really driving the message home. A little influencer marketing muscle doesn’t hurt, either.

The Washington Post (2019)

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

Yes, one of the grand old American newspapers makes our list. In its 2019 Super Bowl advertising debut, The Washington Post prevailed with an advert that makes you stand up and take notice right from the get-go.

A hard-hitting visual ad that highlights the often-dangerous work carried out by journalists and narrated by the warm, iconic voice of Tom Hanks, the video has a solid narrative that features those in the media industry who have died or disappeared.

Sharing the message that ‘knowing keeps us free’ and the paper’s official slogan, ‘democracy dies in the darkness’, The Washington Post hit home the importance of honest, fact-driven journalism in today’s world. As such, the publication has positioned itself as an oracle for reliable, unbiased, real-time information in a world full of fake news—an excellent entry to the Super Bowl advertising arena.

Takeaway: If you’re looking to deliver a poignant, hard-hitting message, being bold and daring will help you get results—as long as you’re honest, transparent and tasteful in your efforts. And, by using a celebrity or influencer to appear in, or narrate your advert, you stand to gain additional traction and a boost in brand awareness.

Kia (2019)

dmi video thumbnail

Join for FREE to access this video

Kia is one of the world’s most forward-thinking car manufacturers, and its 2019 Super Bowl ad was a testament to that very notion. Rather than using a star-studded celebrity lineup to endorse its products, Kia chose to celebrate the everyday people who help to manufacture their world-renowned vehicles.

Not only is the ad’s strapline, ‘here’s to the great unknowns’ nothing short of inspirational, but the entire sequence is emotive, epic, and stunning to watch—drilling down into the grassroots talent that has made the company what it is today.

Takeaway: To prevail in your digital marketing or video advertising efforts, you don’t necessarily have to lean on influencers to be successful. By creating something that is powerful, emotional, and offers a glimpse behind the scenes of your business, you stand to attract a great deal of new consumers to your brand.

What Not To Do: Some Classic Super Bowl Fails…

Some years have produced red herrings: ads that are dull, directionless or completely miss the mark. 

So, let’s show you some examples of how not to create a Super Bowl ad…

Planters’ Super Bowl Ad (2019)

While the Planters' 2019 Super Bowl offering had all of the elements of a great ad —the Planters mascot driving a peanut-mobile like a madman in the same neighborhood as Charlie Sheen and an adrenaline-pumping hair metal soundtrack and witty advertising slogans , it failed to hit the mark in terms of impact.

Takeaway: Having a solid soundtrack, an amusing hook, celebrity endorsement, and big-budget production is certainly helpful in creating a successful ad, if you don’t have a clear-cut direction or message, your efforts are likely to fall flat.

Pepsi’s Super Bowl Ad (2019)

Even though this advert stars the inimitable Steve Carrell and boasts a star-spangled mix of cameos, it feels like it should have been funnier and more exciting than it actually was.

The central strapline—‘more than okay’—had legs but as the ad failed to make the impact it promised, it failed as the campaign itself was just ‘okay’. Moreover, by focusing on the fact that Pepsi ‘is more than okay’, the brand also ran the risk of making people feel that its direct competitor, Coca-Cola, is actually better—and that’s not great for brand growth.

Takeaway: If you’re in a situation where you have a strong direct competitor, researching their efforts and initiatives and investing your creative efforts in producing a campaign that not only shines your brand in an incredibly positive light but is completely unique is the only way to win on the commercial battlefield.

Supercharge your marketing campaigns to attract and influence

DMI’s Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing covers the core skills you need to succeed in all types of areas, like social research, digital strategy, email marketing, and social media marketing. 

The certification will also give you in-depth knowledge of specialized skills such as SEO, analytics, and display and video advertising while exploring how to incorporate AI into your marketing activities. Enroll today to get your career on the right track. 

{library_author}

{library_author:title}
{library_author:title}
{library_author:author_bio}
{/library_author}
Upgrade to Power Membership to continue your access to thousands of articles, toolkits, podcasts, lessons and much much more.
Become a Power Member

CPD points available

This content is eligible for CPD points. Please sign in if you wish to track this in your account.