Big Game, Ad Claims: Reflecting on Super Bowl Advertising Tactics

Feb 10, 2021 by Laura Brett, Vice President and La Toya Sutton, Attorney of the National Advertising Division

Super Bowl LV was watched by a total of 96.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen ratings provided by CBS Sports. We were just two of the viewers, but like most of us in the advertising law community we were watching very closely, not just the “Big Game,” but of course the ads.

You may have noticed on social media leading up to the game that we decided to have some fun this year. With a little creative help, we developed a just-for-fun game called #BigGameAdClaim BINGO. Thanks to those who played along.

Being competitive types, we were looking closely for our industry’s fun phrases such as sustainability claims, anthropomorphic animals, and superior performance claims. It was not an ad, but the predictions about the Kansas City Chiefs offense might fit in that latter category. 

Here are some thoughts on the issues and trends we spotted in the ads:  

  • Advertisers have an innate ability to meet consumers where they are, and this year many ads met us where we have spent the past year, in our homes and on our devices. In addition to the ads for snacks and drinks, many others focused on traditional home chores, cleaning, doing laundry, planting gardens, and even getting rid of junk.
  • While we did not see a lot of performance claims, many of these ads or products tied to social media or digital campaigns in ways that reflect our increasing use of social media for socializing this year and the associated reliance on our devices.


Other ads specifically targeted that dependence on devices, whether for school, work, entertainment, or for dinner, and demonstrated what can be done on phones or devices now, including an emphasis on gaming and new entertainment platforms. This reflects a trend we have seen at NAD with an increase in challenges to the technology products that are essential to our daily lives.    

Several other advertisers were aspirational -- electric cars dominating in the near future, driverless cars, and space travel. A forward-looking trend, possibly a focus to remind us that there is a future in which we will be working and socializing out of our homes, is one we have noted in recent NAD cases.  

Though Sunday's matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the reigning champion Chiefs was a blowout on the field, the game “outside the lines” seemed respectful of the times we are in with many devoted to public service messages.

Year after year, no matter the mood of the moment, the “Big Game” continues to be a commercial success. Rates for 30-second ad spots during this year's event averaged roughly $5.5 billion, a historic high. And these ads were not just airing on TV; broadcast broke records as the most live-streamed NFL game ever, averaging 5.7 million viewers per minute — up 65% from last year's big game.

Football fans may have been disappointed by the game itself, but we “ad fans” were struck by the positive and hopeful messages that resonated throughout many of the 2021 Super Bowl ads. We eagerly await next year and hope you will join us on February 6, 2022, for our next edition of Big Game Ad Claim BINGO.

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