Breaking Down the Big Game Ads: What Worked, What Didn’t, and What Now
By Bobby Johnson
February 15, 2023
By Bobby Johnson
February 15, 2023
As anyone who’s ever played football will tell you, after the big game it’s time to review the tapes. And to be honest, it’s really no different in the marketing biz.
We’re taking a look at last Sunday’s big game, the ads that grabbed national attention, and the ads that maybe didn’t land as hard. We’re also gonna examine how these marketing campaigns might have gone differently, and where marketers can learn a thing or two moving forward.
But first, the most important question: how did the Inspira team feel about the commercials this year?
We polled everyone at Inspira to find out how our fellow team members felt about the Superb Owl, that most majestic of non-trademarked birds. And also the “Big Game.” Totally separate, unrelated things.
First off, we saw a literal perfect split of Chiefs and Eagles fans, at exactly 31% each. Luckily, that means only about a third of our staff was bummed out this Sunday. Not bad.
Nearly a quarter of Inspira, when asked who they were rooting for this game, chose “Rihanna and Baby #2,” nearly edging out Kansas City and Philly. Which, I mean, is understandable. Only 15% of Inspira expressed ambivalence toward a winner.
Inspira was equally split on whether this year’s commercials were better than 2022’s. Somehow, a perfect 50/50 split of Inspira team members said this year’s Big Game commercials edged out last year.
Three commercials came out on top as Inspira’s favorites. Though opinions about the best commercials were fairly split, three ads nabbed the most mentions in our survey: the Bennifer Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, the Grease-flavored T-Mobile ad starring John Travolta and Scrub’s Turk and JD (Zach Braff, Donald Faison), and the Farmer’s Dog ad.
The Tubi fakeout ad was also brought up often by our team, who found it funny and engaging. We definitely didn’t reach for our remote thinking our TV was freaking out and trying to switch from the big game to Mr and Mrs Smith.
Our team members found a few ads less-than-impressive. The M&M commercial was mentioned most often in our survey by participants who found the pivot against the backlash to be a mistake. And just generally not that entertaining.
The second place for ads that missed the mark was the Uber jingle ad with Diddy, which our survey-takers thought wasn’t as funny as it could have been.
So, how close were the Inspira team’s opinions to the general public?
So it turns out the 25% of Inspira rooting for Rihanna and her new baby over both teams was pretty on the money. According to Google, “is Rihanna pregnant” was the most heavily searched term in the United States during halftime.
We weren’t off on the popularity of the Grease-tribute commercial, either. The John Travolta T-Mobile ad hit the #2 spot for most watched Game-Day ads on YouTube. Why did it do so well? Was it Grease nostalgia? Love of Scrubs? General enthusiasm for high-speed internet? We’d guess that it was a catchy, well-remembered tune with an unexpected but delightful appearance by Travolta himself.
The number one most watched on YouTube, though, was the Melissa McCarthy spot for Booking.com. It’s a fairly simple but entertaining ad, with a bankable and funny star. Sometimes simple really is best.
For an ad with barely a sentence of dialogue, it sparked attention by being relatable, simple, and effortlessly hilarious. However, that wasn’t the only reason it hit those heights on Twitter: Bud Light was also running a contest for multiple $10,000 giveaways, and the only way to enter was by tossing out Bud Light hashtags.
So, not quite organic, but highly effective nonetheless.
The Tubi ad that Inspira team members definitely didn’t fall for got a lot of attention on Twitter, too. No surprise, really: any ad that pranks 113 million people at once deserves a little attention.
What causes an ad to catch fire and another ad to fizzle out?
Talking to Inspira, it seems one message was clear: celebrities work best when they’re in their element.
Ben Affleck has a working-class background and a working-class vibe, so putting him at the window of Dunkin’ Donuts called back to not only his roots but our memories of down-to-Earth roles like his turn in Good Will Hunting. Bradley Cooper, by contrast, doesn’t have that same blue-collar energy.
Melissa McCarthy being goofy pretty much always works. P. Diddy, on the other hand, despite hilarious turns in films like Get Him to the Greek, is less remembered for his comedic roles. And even in that movie, P. Diddy had a super high-energy anger that slayed, where game day watchers found him sort of flat in the Uber ad.
Surprise, delight, and nostalgia are key factors in a good marketing experience. John Travolta singing a parody of a Grease song isn’t exactly creative genius, but it definitely wasn’t expected, either. Playing off the joy of nostalgia, a beloved actor, and a good tune can go a long way.
The Ben Affleck Dunkin’ Donuts ad makes a similar play. The premise is basically “hey, remember Bennifer?” a retro-nostalgic strategy that is both current (they are married) and classic.
Incentives for sharing work wonders. Organic sharing is great, but you can’t exactly plan for it. Bud Light became the #1 trending gameday ad by basically paying for it. What’re a couple thousand dollars when you’re already spending millions on a commercial?
Probably the difference between first and second place on Twitter.
If you’d like to hear more marketing insights, or just brag to someone that you also definitely didn’t fall for the Tubi ad, reach out to Inspira Marketing today.
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