Whether the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers won last night’s Super Bowl in Las Vegas wasn’t that important to the dozens of global brands who pumped millions of dollars of marketing cash into the climax of the NFL season.
More crucial was the number of people who watched the almost half-day of sports and entertainment, and how many of these consumers noticed their specific brand collaboration.
The Super Bowl ranks among the year’s biggest focuses of advertising and public relations activity, with American families traditionally holding beer-and-nachos parties or sitting down together on the sofa to watch the stories unfold.
Reportedly, commercials during the match last night sold for around $7m (£5.5m) per 30-second slot, similar rates to last year.
But brand hopes were higher in 2024, thanks to the PR boost from Taylor Swift, who has been dating Kansas Chiefs player Travis Kelce.
Such has been the interest in Swift attending Chiefs matches – with many non-football fans tuning in to see her and Kelce – that NFL boss Roger Goodell was asked by media before the match whether he and his team had “scripted” this storyline to boost a previously fading national sport.
Goodell laughed off such theories but admitted he was delighted that Swift had brought in a newer, younger audience and a big increase in female viewers.
Hence we saw advertisers like Pepsi, Oreos, Booking.com and Uber Eats producing Super Bowl commercials clearly aimed at a female audience, although Uber Eats ran into some controversy for allegedly including a gag about a man with a nut allergy.
Interestingly, most advertisers – with the exception of Dove, which continued its campaign about female self-confidence – eschewed the social purpose campaigning that would have been prevalent a few years ago.
This may be understandable when last spring Bud Light, naturally a massive Super Bowl advertiser, endured a huge backlash from its tie-up with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
Indeed, this year’s Bud Light campaign joined the trend for big advertisers to play it safe and pack their commercials full of mainstream celebrities; it featured a ‘“Genie” who can make your dreams of “having a night out with your favourite celeb” come true. This all-American spectacle is clearly no place to fight the progressive side of the culture wars.