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It’s a football game that brings us all together on February 4th, but we all know this game is not simply about football. The Super Bowl has morphed into a multi-level business empire, and for many, the game is secondary. The Super Bowl is a singular opportunity to capture eyeballs and wallets, to make inroads both digital and physical. The advertising alone is its own mini-economy, with rates of over $5 million for a 30-second spot set to bring in $500 million. Nielsen estimated that last year the game was seen by 111.3 million viewers, in 53.6 million homes and through 190.8 million social media interactions across Facebook and Twitter from 48.3 million people.

The contest to host the game is a fierce competition with the prize of bringing thousands of tourists and their dollars to the winning location. As a Minneapolitan I’ve witnessed our city transformed to welcome just as many marketers and their brand campaigns—free music sponsorships, snowmobile stunts, a zip line across the Mississippi, ice fishing on a rooftop — vying for the chance to capture even a shred of the nation’s kinetic attention. Making the most of this opportunity, the city has created its own marketing campaign: Bold North. Own it, right? Welcome to winter!

But an event this big goes beyond sports and marketing, attracting other aspects of our culture–domestic abuse, anti-poverty, trafficking–that see an opportunity to grab attention. This year, football became the locus of social activism, with players taking a knee during the anthem. That act spread to colleges and high schools and has played a role in the continued political wars dividing the country. The NFL has already been dealing with criticism over the devastating consequences of concussions. The implications of those dangers have spilled over into declining participation with kids. Now, many people are watching to see where this shift in awareness will take the sport — and what that means to all the industry, jobs and commerce it has spawned.

My interest in this massive industry is trained on the commercials, and what they say about us. This year, there have been more teasers than in the past, and the ads feature an inspired selection of celebrity appearances, along with the anticipated laughs. With the past year of political tumult, it’s not a surprise that the lineup already revealed is heavy on humor. That’s why we watch, right? Last year, we saw some outright political statements, but this year it looks like advertisers are playing it safe with humor and celebrities.

Looking at the early Super Bowl ad releases, this is where we’re at thematically, before game time even begins.


What a year we’ve just been through. Good or bad, the last 18 months have challenged what we know, and left plenty of us wondering what’s next. For some, it’s an unsettling and uncertain time. A time when we can use a reminder of our own power. Lexus has tapped the much-anticipated Black Panther superheroes and music to highlight the power and control in the Lexus LS 500.


Hard to say what Kia is going to reveal but from the its already-released teaser for the Stinger, but we’re given all the audio hints of a powerful vehicle, some black painted fingernails and the nod from racing icon Emerson Fittipaldi. Tagline: Feel Something Again. Thought we’d have to wait and see–here it is.


Shared Values

Making an emotional connection is a sure way to build a lasting relationship with a customer. So far, only a few brands have released spots that are tapping into powerful emotion and have tried to motivate audiences around social issues or shared values.

Stella Artois has teamed up with and spokesperson Matt Damon to draw attention to water scarcity and the need for clean water. “If 1% of you watching today bought the [Stella Artois] glass it would provide clean water for 1 million people for 5 years.” Damon has taken heat recently for wrong-headed comments about the MeToo movement. Here, there may be similar off notes as we can imagine the tweets asking: Why not just donate the money instead?


PETA draws on the iconography of a confessional and the gravitas of James Cromwell to highlight the sins of the meat industry.


Meanwhile, Budweiser returns this year, reminding us they are one of the good guys, with a feel good piece spotlighting their contribution to the hurricane recovery as they switch production from canning beer to water and shipping it off to the victims and communities in need. A beer company advertising how good it is at delivering…water?


Is This Real Life

Since the news is constantly telling us of how the political parties forgot real people and real businesses, I thought there would be more offerings in this theme.

Tiffany Haddish reminds us (in a funny spot) how Groupon is a way you can help small and local businesses—not big box greed.


Kraft will be spotlighting real families, not reality show families, in a spot that will debut during the game. You might be on TV!  Hyundai’s charming spot this year how the Kona helps families keep their priorities straight and get back to watching the game.


A Song of Ice and Fire

This is why we watch. We want to laugh, and the advertisers want us to associate that positive reaction with their product. The challenge is in the strategy and creative. Is it humor for humor’s sake or does the comedy actually highlight product attributes? This year’s entries do not disappoint.

Pringles draws on the hilarious Bill Hader to unveil “flavor stacking”—stacking different Pringle flavored chips for a completely new and customizable snack experience.


Not until this spot did I ever think that Danny DeVito looked like an M&M, but the ad shows off great casting, with DeVito as an M&M dreaming of becoming real. Plus, who wouldn’t want to float in a pool of chocolate?  Full spot below.


Two of the regular Super Bowl heavy hitters are teaming up this year. Early teasers show Peter Dinklage and Martin Freeman practicing tongue twisters under stress, in a battle of fire versus ice. The full commercial stages a fierce lip synch war between Dinklage (powered by Doritos Blaze), who delivers on Busta Rhymes and Freeman stoked on Mt Dew Ice and coached by Missy Elliott in a fun fast-paced piece. Fans will definitely watch more than once. This is one of the top two for attention-getters for this year.


Following on last year’s terrific spot, this year, Febreze features Dave and his “bleep don’t stink.” “But Dave isn’t at your Super Bowl party. Everyone else is. Is your bathroom ready?”


After sealing themselves in a bubble to keep the bad out and the good in, including plenty of Avocados from Mexico, residents of the latest Eden realize that the chips are on the outside. An apocalypse ensues. Calmed by the reminder of avocado toast (and other delicious ways to eat avocados) peace is short-lived as the wifi goes down and another riot erupts. Such is bubble life. Or maybe this is the realest reflection of modern day America yet?


Sprint introduces a robot named Evelyn who is enhancing her AI by learning to take selfies and an assortment of skills.  “See what else Evelyn has learned to do.” I have this feeling that Evelyn (and it turns out, her co-workers) are smarter than the rest of us.



What’s new? What’s solving our problems? Not many offerings this year but here are two good ones.

Squarespace features Keanu Reeves in a spacy, dreamy piece wondering if he should really be making motorcycles (which he does!).  Squarespace will help you “make it (your dreams) happen.” One spot features a crying Keanu whose cinematography looks like fan service for Sad Keanu meme lovers everywhere.


In a two-part teaser strategy we first see Amazon and Jeff Bezos face a crisis when Alexa loses her voice.  Separately, we see 15-second spots of celebrities receiving headsets in an amazon box with the iconic smile logo. What could they be up to? In the full commercial—this could be the winner this year–we see the likes of Anthony Hopkins, Gordon Ramsay, Rebel Wilson and Cardi B standing in for Alexa, to the surprise of typical users.


No doubt I’ve missed some of the early releases at the time of this posting–Coke, Toyota are two excellent spots– but I’ll be watching the game to see all the entries and tweeting at @panoramixglobal and @metametrixdata — follow along and tweet at me!